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A group of 50 students, parents and educators representing Pamlico County High School filled the small, cramped meeting room of the State Board of Education this week to make sure board members know what they think about the possible expansion of a local charter school.

The entourage from eastern North Carolina wore “Save Pamlico County High School” stickers and made it clear they want the board to prevent Arapahoe Charter School from expanding through the 12th grade.

Arapahoe, a kindergarten through ninth grade campus, already accounts for roughly 18 percent of the student population in Pamlico County, a small community that has four public schools – two elementaries, a middle and a high school.

“We’re passionate,” said Superintendent Wanda Dawson. “I just want the best for my students. That’s all…. I feel that one high school in Pamlico County can provide outstanding opportunities for all students in Pamlico, and that’s what we’re advocating for.” Read More

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The State Board of Education decided Wednesday to postpone a vote on regulations for virtual charter schools in North Carolina.

The decision to table the vote until next month’s meeting comes after an exchange of letters between leading Republican lawmakers and board Chairman Bill Harrison about who, exactly, has the authority to regulate virtual charter schools.

Harrison said the delay is not the result of legislative pressure, but a simple desire to follow board procedure and discuss the issue more fully before taking a vote. “We are following our regular process,” he said.

“I don’t think (voting in) January is going to throw us off,” he said. “The next round of applications for charters, the deadline is March 1, and I think whatever we can get in place, it needs to be solid.”

Wednesday’s decision, however, comes after a letter from Republican lawmakers said the board was overstepping its bounds by creating guidelines for virtual charter schools.

Measures currently under consideration include a statewide limit of three virtual charter schools; per-pupil expenditures of roughly $3,600; and a requirement that applicants seek approval from the State Board of Education and no other entity.

In a letter dated Nov. 13, the chairs of the Education Oversight Committee objected to the move. “The State Board of Education is acting outside of its authority with the proposed administrative policy,” the letter said.

The trio of lawmakers — Sen. Jerry Tillman and Reps. Bryan Holloway and Linda Johnson — also said virtual charter school deliberations should take place in the legislature before any regulations are adopted.

Harrison, who responded with a letter of his own, said Wednesday that “I have an obligation to do what the constitution charges us to do, and I don’t feel we’re infringing on their role, that we’re trying to sidestep them in any way.

“I think I made it clear in here today,” he said, “that any conversation we have around the budget or funding formula that we recognize that that’s their bailiwick and it’s only a recommendation to them.”

Read more about the virtual charter school debate here.

 

 

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Stephen Gainey likes a challenge, whether it’s teaching high school math, running a school, or acting as interim superintendent of Wake County Public Schools.

He also likes working with the much divided Wake County school board.

“They’ve been good to me,” he said.

Gainey started out in education as a math teacher at Apex High School. Over the years he worked his way up to assistant principal and principal before he was tapped nearly four years ago to be the director of human resources.

“I’ve always enjoyed a challenge,” he said, and “every position I’ve been in has been a challenge.”

Gainey said he learned from his parents, both educators, to stay focused on what’s best for kids. “That’s what drives our country,” he said, “to make them productive members of society.”

Gainey, considered by many to be a good candidate for the superintendent’s position in Wake County schools, will not say whether he plans to apply for the vacant slot.

But  he will say this: “I am enjoying working with this board, and I’ve been a principal, and I’ve been a teacher, and I hope one day to be a superintendent.”

Read more about the Wake County superintendent search here.

 

 

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Making the case for pre-K programming, state Superintendent June Atkinson told lawmakers on Tuesday that early childhood education is critical to closing the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students.

She highlighted statistics showing that 60 percent of students who are on the federal free and reduced lunch program are proficient in reading. In contrast, more affluent students are 90 percent proficient.

“That gives us a sense of urgency and that will also require us as adults to address some of the root causes,” she said, “and some of those root causes for this statistic is that some of our students, especially our students who are economically disadvantaged, do not have quality early childhood education programs.

She made her comments while giving the Education Oversight Committee an update on North Carolina’s Race to the Top initiative.

In addition to early childhood education, she also made reference to the state’s remediation rate at the postsecondary level. Race to the Top, she noted, has several goals, including a 100 percent graduation rate, increased college enrollment, and a 10 percent remediation rate.

It contrasts sharply with the 60 percent remediation rate often referenced by Governor-elect Pat McCrory as a reason for statewide education reform, one that includes a renewed emphasis on career and technology education.

Recent figures show that the remediation rate is slightly higher, or 65 percent, but both figures omit the remediation rate for four-year institutions. That figure is 8.4 percent.