Southside principal pleas for community involvement

ROWLAND — Southside-Ashpole Elementary School’s principal called for the community’s help during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the town’s Board of Commissioners.

“This is a community school. We’ve been tasked with the turnaround, but the school doesn’t belong to us,” Bruce Major said. “I’m looking for community members to tell me what it is you want for your school.”

Southside is the lone member of the state’s new Innovative School District, which is tasked with turning around low-performing schools.

During the meeting, Major was introduced to the commissioners and spoke about Southside-Ashpole’s progress and what they can expect from the school going forward.

“My assessment over the last four weeks is that the school has a rich history, and we want to return this school back to its former glory,” Major said.

His instructional motto for the school is simply to teach, but there’s another aspect to the motto he wants to implement, Major said.

“There’s an additional piece to my plan, that I’ll be calling on you guys as members of the community,” Major said. “One of the things that I think is essential to the turnaround to student academic success is that school has to be relevant to their lives. Rowland is a small town and a lot of our students’ world view are kind of limited to Rowland.”

As part of the school’s curriculum, students will step outside the classroom and get a more hands-on learning experience, he said. This can be as simple as taking a half-day trip to a factory after students have a lesson about pulley systems. The school is planning a community day in September and a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the Smithsonian Institution.

“Our students will get a chance to see and put into practice the academics pieces they are learning in the classroom so they see some relevance to what they are learning in the classroom,” Major said.

This will not be a budgeted item for the schools, so he hopes local business will open their doors to the students, Major said.

“We don’t need your money, we need your resources,” he said.

Mayor Michelle Shooter said the town will support the school in anyway possible.

“Put us to work. Let us know what you need and we’ll be happy to help,” Shooter said.

Also during the meeting, the commissioners learned that two teachers were retained from the previous year. The office manager and custodial staff also will remain at the school. Shooter asked if new teachers from out of town found housing.

“Those who have come from any significant amount of distance that are changing their residency, they have all secured housing,” Major said.

The school will have 12 teachers, four educational partners and three special area teachers.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners set the time limit for public comment to five minutes.

Although the town has been conducting meetings for years without an issue, the town is required to add a time limit to its policy. The board settled on five minutes with the choice to extend the time if need be.

The commissioners also tabled a discussion to close an unused alleyway on Chapel Street. Town Clerk David Townsend said town resident Randy Strong wants to build a storage facility next to his two existing units on East Chapel Street. The alleyway extends 200 feet north and south between Bond and Watson streets. The other end of the alley was closed when BB&T bank was built.

Town Attorney Robert Price said Strong will be required to send a formal request to the town and the commissioners will then consider his request.

In other business, the commissioners learned:

— That Townsend has collected all of the registration applications for the owners of video gaming business in Rowland. He is scheduling inspections on all the sites to confirm their information is accurate and that each machine is registered.

— That all of the teenagers involved in a recent series break-ins and vandalism throughout the town have been caught.

Southside-Ashpole Elementary School Principal Bruce Major speaks Monday with the Rowland Board of Commissioners about the need for community support for the school. Elementary School Principal Bruce Major speaks Monday with the Rowland Board of Commissioners about the need for community support for the school.

Tomeka Sinclair

Staff writer

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at or 910-416-5865.