ROWLAND — About three dozen people turned out on Thursday at a job fair as the Innovative School District took a big first step toward staffing Southside-Ashpole Elementary School.
Eric Hall, superintendent of the district, was pleased with the turnout at the fair, which was held over two hours at Rowland Town Hall.
“I was really impressed with the overall turnout and the quality of the candidates,” he said. “We had a pretty good mix of candidates from across the region, from North Carolina and South Carolina.
“Our next step is to review job applications, and explore other opportunities for events like this one.”
Hall has said 24 staff members must be hired in the following fields: K through 5; Exceptional Children; Physical Education; Music; Art; Assistants; Instructional Coach; Guidance Counselor; and Operations Specialist. Information can be found on the ISD’s new website at innovativeschooldistrict.org, which was launched Friday. Applications also can be submitted at the website.
Elaine Mair, a 62-year-old Fairmont resident, was among those trying to find out if Southside-Ashpole might be a good fit. She has worked as a teacher’s assistant at Lester Elementary in Florence, S.C., for 18 years. She worked previously as an art teacher at Orrum Middle School.
“I heard that they are hiring at Ashpole,” she said. “I would like to get a job doing the same thing.”
Tera Davis, 43, of Raeford, is currently working as a FedEx driver. She once lived in New Jersey, where she was a parent liaison at Marion P. Thomas Charter Schools Newark for nine years. She was on an exploratory mission Thursday to see if there was a need for someone with her skills at Southside-Ashpole.
“A family worker or liaison is present to resolve conflicts involving parents and the school,” she said. “The position also entails troubleshooting.”
Mary Horton, 56, of Latta, S.C., was looking for a shorter drive to work. She is a sixth-grade teacher at Carroll Middle School in Lumberton, about 25 miles from Rowland. She said she was interested in an instructional coach position, and helping staff develop lesson plans.
Current educators and support staff at the school are eligible to apply to keep their jobs. There was an information meeting on Tuesday at the school with those interested in doing so.
The school will be managed by Achievement for All Children, a nonprofit whose CEO is Tony Helton.
That entity will hire a principal, who will work with Hall and Helton’s organization to hire staff. The district’s goal is to take the low-performing school, improve academic outcomes, and give it back to the Public Schools of Robeson County in five years.
Helton said there is no time to waste.
“When you hear we have five years for the program, we are talking five days,” he said. “Take that five years out of your mind. We are not looking at this as a long-term project. We want to improve academics immediately.
“We have to go at this in a very urgent matter.”
Principal candidates can apply at www.aac.school. Hall has said there is no timeline to hire a principal, but added, “It is our top priority right now, but we need to make sure we find the right fit.”
The Innovative School District is a new initiative from the Republican-led General Assembly. The ISD’s task is to take low-performing schools from all across North Carolina to higher levels of academic achievement.
Southside-Ashpole was the lone school picked for the inaugural year, being selected from a pool that at one time included 48 schools, including four other low-performing schools from Robeson County.
Initially there was local resistance, including from the Board of Education. The resistance waned as Hall performed months of community outreach. The school board voted unanimously in January to relinquish control of the school, but the only other choice it had was to shut it down and send students elsewhere in the system.
Hall has said the school will have some flexibility, including in hiring, operating hours, and approaches to teaching. But many services will continue to be provided by the local school system, including food and transportation.
The 260 students who attend the school will be the same as before, coming from within its attendance zone.
Editor Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649, while staff writer Annick Joseph can be reached at [email protected]