Local News

Halifax principals go to class to upgrade schools

Posted July 27, 2009 6:52 p.m. EDT
Updated July 27, 2009 7:12 p.m. EDT

— Four weeks before Halifax County students return to class, school was in session Monday for their principals.

The state Department of Public Instruction sent coaches to the school district to help administrators provide effective instructional leadership. The class is part of the state's effort to boost student performance in the struggling district.

More than 71 percent of the district's elementary school students aren't proficient in reading, and 74.3 percent of middle school students aren't proficient, according to state figures. At the high school level, about one-third of the students are considered proficient on end-of-course tests, compared with 68 percent statewide.

The performance prompted Superior Court Judge Howard Manning to call for a state takeover of the district, calling continued poor performance "academic genocide." Manning has long overseen the academic performance of state schools after a ruling several years ago in a case that sought to get more state support for school districts in low-income and rural areas.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, state education officials and Halifax school administrators said the effort – the first of its kind in North Carolina – isn't a state takeover. Instead, they viewed it as a partnership to ensure local students keep pace with their peers statewide.

"Part of my role as the leader of this effort is to come and let you know I'll be a part of it with you," Perdue said. "I trust what Howard Manning has said. I trust what he's told us about the system. In his order, he continues to talk about educational genocide, and we want today to be an end to any of those kind of labels to any kid or any system in the state."

In addition to putting principals through three weeks of training and teachers through two weeks, Halifax schools have agreed to hire 12 "master teachers" and three "transformation coaches" to change the way local schools teach and operate.

"I think it's a long time coming. Halifax County schools probably needed this help a long time ago," said Phillip Rountree, principal at Northwest Halifax High School in Littleton.

"It just needs some redirection, and we're working for that redirection," said Bettie Archibald, principal at Inborden Elementary School in Enfield. "We're going to do whatever we need to do to get on board."