RALEIGH — The North Carolina Board of Education has given Achievement for All Children the task of turning around Southside-Ashpole Elementary School.
Board members voted 7-4 on Wednesday to approve the recommendation of Innovative School District Superintendent Eric Hall to begin contract negotiations with the Forest City-based nonprofit.
Achievement for All Students will oversee the school in Rowland for five years beginning in August with the goal of taking the school from low-performing to high-performing. The newly formed organization is affiliated with TeamCFA, which manages 13 North Carolina charter schools.
“Contract negotiations will take several weeks, and then we will begin work on starting the new school year,” Hall said. “Achievement for All Children and I will hire a principal together, and then we will begin hiring teachers.”
Asked if he was disappointed the vote wasn’t unanimous, Hall said the “conversations were very positive.”
“They gave great support, and there was healthy discussion,” Hall said. “The concerns and questions were about ensuring that this organization can deliver on its promise.
“We all have high expectations. Everyone respected the process we went through and the evaluations.”
State board Chairman Bill Cobey expressed support for Achievement for All Children as the operator and commended the selection process.
“This is new and challenging work for everyone, and I commend Dr. Hall and his team, as well AAC’s leadership and staff for working so thoughtfully and diligently to get us to this point,” Cobey said. “I am encouraged to see the ISD get to this important next stage, where what was only an idea just a short while ago is now developing into a genuinely innovative approach to improving conditions in low-performing schools.
“Most encouraging of all are the tremendous and, frankly, surprising inroads of support that have been built in Rowland and the inspiration and hope that the ISD brings to that community.”
Turning around low-performing Southside-Ashpole is a unique and daunting task, Cobey said. Achievement for All Children promises to turn a school that got an “F” on its last annual state report card into a high-performing school within the five years of its contract.
The Innovative School District was created by the North Carolina General Assembly to create a turnaround model for the state’s low performing schools. Southside-Ashpole is its first project.
“In the end, the school board will hold me accountable, and I will hold the operator accountable,” Hall said.
Hall and Achievement for All Children personnel will hire the principal. The teachers will be employees of the Innovative School District and considered state employees, and Hall will hire them with consultation from the new principal. Existing staff will have to reapply for their j obs.
“We will work hand-in-hand with the principal in the hiring process,” Hall said. “From here, the work gets a lot more visible.”
A key to success is the support of the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, the county school board and the Rowland community, he said.
“I can’t thank Dr. (Shanita) Wooten and the school board members who have remained engaged with the process enough,” Hall said. “They are setting the stage for our success.”
Hall is pleased the selection process is complete.
“This was a big one,” he said. “The (state) school board did a rigorous and fair job evaluating the proposal. I am excited about the next step.”
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]