On paper, the options before the state Board of Education next week regarding the much-discussed Carver Heights Elementary School in Wayne County seem simple.If the board does not approve the school’s Restart Model application to grant the school charter-like flexibility, then Carver Heights will be taken over by the state and transferred to the controversial Innovative School District (ISD).
And if the board does approve the Restart Model application, then Wayne County schools leaders would have until the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year to improve student achievement or be transferred to the ISD beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. The board meets for the first time this year Jan. 9-10.
Again, the options before the board seem simple, but discussions around the proposed takeover of Carver Heights have been complex and often contentious as the Goldsboro community vigorously pushed back against the takeover.
It took approval of a state technical corrections bill to move the process along to where district officials could resubmit its Restart Application for Carver Heights.
The bill also repealed a requirement that the State Board select at least two qualifying schools to transfer to the Innovative School District no later than the 2019-2020 school year. That requirement forced state board members, even those who were reluctant to do so, to approve the recommendation for the takeover last month.
Wayne County Superintendent Michael Dunsmore believes the board will approve the district’s application next week. He said the changes to the application requested by state officials have been made.
Dunsmore, who last month threatened to challenge state officials’ handling of the ISD selection process in court, also noted that state board members were receptive to the idea of a “restart” when it met in December, another factor he contends weighs in Carver Heights’ favor.
“What we expect next week is that they approve our Restart Application and we move on,” Dunsmore said. “This should be a formality.”
Dunsmore said the “restart” at Carver Height is technically already underway. The district has hired a new principal, a former state Principal of the Year with a proven track record with turning around struggling schools.
Carver Heights will have a steep hill to climb if it is to remain off the state’s list for transfer to the ISD.
The school, where 90 percent of the students are black and 90 percent are considered economically disadvantaged, earned “F” scores in reading and math in 2016-2017 and did not meet expected growth goals.
Its performance on state tests during the 2017-2018 school year was the worst among the six schools considered for transfer to the ISD. Only 18.4 percent of students performed at or above grade level on end-of-grade tests.
A year from now, Dunsmore is certain that Carver Height students will show enough improvement on state tests to keep the school off of ISD takeover list.
“I’m very confident,” Dunsmore said, pointing to district success turning around Goldsboro High School. “We’ve proven that we can do it. I think the [state] board recognizes that.”