Time for something new at Southside-Elementary School

To the Editor,

I attended the Nov. 28 community meeting sponsored by the town of Rowland to discuss the future of Southside-Ashpole Elementary School.

While I have followed newspaper reports on this issue before the Robeson County Board of Education, it is obviously complicated, one I believe school officials are struggling with. But after hearing the information provided by Eric Hall of the Innovative School District, I believe it really is simple: The Board of Education can agree to allow Southside-Ashpole Elementary be the pilot school in the ISD program or close the school.

Closing it would mean busing the 200-plus students to another school; based on research I’ve done of the surrounding schools, their rankings are only minimally better than Southside-Ashpole’s. I’m not convinced that would benefit the students at Southside and I’m sure getting up earlier to travel to another school would not be benefit students or parents.

Board member Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, who represents Rowland but lives in Maxton, said she was prepared “to do the right thing for the children of Rowland,” which was interpreted as a vote of support for participation in the ISD program. I wish her luck but the action will require the support of a majority of the 11-member board.

Two school board members, Craig Lowry and Mike Smith, when asked about their position, said they were there to listen. County Commissioner Berlester Campbell, who represents Rowland, said it was a school board decision. I was disappointed in their responses.

It may be a “school board decision,” but it affects not just the people of Rowland but everyone who cares about children and the future. Without properly educated children, what kind of future can we expect? How can the economic development folks hope to bring new jobs here without an educated work force?

I don’t have a child in the county schools but I graduated from Rowland High School and I am a strong believer in local schools — local schools that give their students what they need, supported by the community and the elected officials charged with that responsibility.

I urge voters of Rowland and those who care about education to contact not only their school board members but their commissioner who may not have influence, and urge them to try something new. The current method isn’t working.

Lolita Watson