Durham elementary school facing unprecedented state takeover

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Glenn Elementary School in Durham is one of four underperforming state public schools on the radar.

Parents and teachers crowded outside Glenn Elementary in Durham for a rally. They held signs demanding that state leaders "keep our school public!"

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The rally is in reaction to a new push that the state maintains will help underperforming schools improve.

Similar moves have been done in other states, but this initiative is different, a first-of-its-kind not only in North Carolina, but nationally.

In late September, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced a list of schools that qualify for the newly created North Carolina Innovative School District (NCISD).

Under this, schools that qualify would be operated under charter or education management organizations for a period of five years. Every year the schools would be monitored for improvement to then be returned to the local school district at the end of that five-year period.

More on Innovative School District here

Initially the list of potential schools was at 48. That number has since been narrowed down to four:

Durham Public Schools Glenn Elementary
Nash-Rocky Mount Schools Williford Elementary
Northampton County Schools Willis Hare Elementary Robeson County Schools Southside Ashpole Elementary

The process of choosing the final schools is still underway but getting backlash from parents at Glenn Elementary.

"We're family," said Rene Payton, who has had four children attend Glenn Elementary and has a third-grader there now. She said they're all "A" students.

The school however, isn't performing as well.

Since September 7, the state has reviewed data from all 48 schools considered and used this as a basis for narrowing down the list:

  1. Schools currently receiving funding through federal School Improvement Grants were removed from consideration
  2. All "D" rated schools in 2016-2017 school year were removed from the list of qualifying schools
  3. Then all "F" rated schools that met growth in the 2016-2017 school year were removed
  4. All schools that met academic growth in both 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 and earned a "D" school performance grade in both 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 (must meet both) were removed
  5. Finally, all schools were removed that are in a district that has less than 35 percent of its schools designated as low performing. The districts with 35 percent or more of its schools designated as low performing would remain on the list for consideration after adjusting the list for all other criteria in steps one through four above. (These criteria would allow a local district, per statute, to benefit from the same flexibilities offered to charter schools across all of its low-performing schools if the district chooses to request to establish an Innovation Zone under the local school district's control.)

State Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, was also at Tuesday's rally outside of Glenn Elementary. He said statistically, charter schools have not proven to perform better than public schools.

"I think the whole program is one that really needs to be rethought," McKissick said. "Right now, they already have the flexibility to go in there and do some of the things that a charter operator would do, so they have that availability and that flexibility; we currently have people in charge that are moving us in the right direction."

He said that was put in place about a year and a half ago.

Dr. Eric Hall, the superintendent of the state's Achievement School District, said the next step will be to set up some type of forum for parents with students at the schools that are selected.

Hall said he hopes to have a list by Friday. He said it could be just one school or it could be all four.

The list would then go to the NC State Board of Education for approval to ultimately be implemented at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
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