With a decision looming, Durham parents make last-ditch effort to prevent school takeover

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Glenn Elementary in Durham continues to fight against a possible school takeover.

With the clock ticking on a final decision on which North Carolina schools will be with taken over or shut down, these parents and students arrived at the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh on Thursday afternoon with hundreds of signatures on a petition and passionate pleas to keep their school off the list.

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The only problem - the man they hoped to plead their case to wasn't there.

Wearing custom-made T-shirts and "We love Glenn" stickers, these advocates for Durham's Glenn Elementary School said they came for an appointment with Eric Hall, the superintendent of the North Carolina Innovative School District. It's the state's controversial new program aimed at turning around low-performing schools by handing them over to charter operators or shutting them down.

"I think that he will hear the parents. He knows that we are coming," said parent advocate Javonia Lewis. "We are scheduled to meet him at 4:30."

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But instead of Hall, the group was met by DPI's communications chief who told them, Hall was not there. So one by one, they made their case anyway that Glenn Elementary is not a failing school, just one in need of more state dollars.

"It wasn't a fair process and we just want our voices heard," said one parent.

Another mom said, "The Glenn families are more than numbers on a computer."

But Hall's office said it believes the numbers can't be ignored; test scores at Glenn and the three other schools being considered for takeover show just 1 in 4 students reading at grade level.

The parents argued charter schools are unproven models and losing local control would be disastrous.

As a reminder of that message, David Vanie, a father of Glenn kindergartners, gave the DPI spokesman the "Save Glenn" shirt off his back.

"I gave him the shirt to demonstrate an invitation to partner with us, meet with us," he said.

Robert Lemon is PTA president at Glenn.

"We wanted to talk to (Hall), but he won't give us the time. So, we're just going to fight," he said.

ABC11 was able to reach Hall by phone late Thursday. He said he was only informed that these parents were coming Thursday morning and sent word that he wouldn't be available.

Hall said the schools that are on his list for takeover will be notified by end of business Friday.

He promised there will be some kind of public forum about the process before the State Board of Education takes a final vote in December.
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