State board selects Robeson County school for Innovative School District

Posted November 2, 2017 11:29 a.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2017 8:12 p.m. EDT

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

— The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to include Robeson County's Southside Ashpole Elementary School in the state's new Innovative School District. Robeson County school leaders must decide by Feb. 1 whether they will turn the school over or close it down.

The goal of the ISD is to take five of the state's lowest-performing schools and hand them over to charter school operators to try to improve their performance. Two schools will be chosen next year and two more the following year.

In an statement Thursday evening, Robeson County Schools Interim Superintendent Shanita Wooten said: "We are working on correspondence to ISD Superintendent Eric Hall, North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson, and State Board of Education Chair William Cobey. The Public Schools of Robeson County School Board and the Robeson County Commissioners voted to draft a resolution and a letter, which will be sent by Interim-Superintendent Dr. Shanita Wooten. Those documents will be discussed at the November 9th school board meeting."

Although the state board voted unanimously, board members Olivia Oxendine, who lives in Robeson County, and Amy White said they wish ISD Superintendent Eric Hall had selected more than one school for inclusion in the ISD this year.

Hall, who faced intense pushback from some of the schools he considered, said he wants to move slowly and deliberately.

"For me, it's about a path to do this right and do this well," he said. "We are starting up a brand new school district in this state ... It's not a race about creating a portfolio (of schools)."

Oxendine praised Hall for "winning the hearts and souls of some of the people" in Robeson County but said it's possible the district may close the school.

"(They) have certainly been involved in consolidation talks," Oxendine said.

Schools chosen for the ISD will be turned over to charter school operators, which means their local school boards will no longer have a say in the staffing, instruction or other educational matters at those schools. However, the school boards will still be responsible for maintaining the buildings, making sure they have the appropriate furniture and equipment and continuing to provide transportation for the students.