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Cartner: District monitoring teacher absences more

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools has stepped up efforts to increase monitoring of teacher absences after internal reports showed what appeared to be excessive teacher absences at several low-performing schools.

Superintendent Larry Cartner told a group of parents and citizens at a community meeting last week that each principal in the district now receives a monthly list showing each day of school a teacher didn’t come to work.

In addition, the district has held meetings with the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at Pasquotank Elementary School on a regular basis since September, Cartner said. Pasquotank was one of two low-performing schools selected for a reform plan where Cartner recently said teacher absenteeism has been an issue.

According to Cartner, 10 teachers at Pasquotank Elementary were responsible for more than 43 absences the first semester of the 2015-16 school year. The majority of those absences fell on Mondays and Fridays or immediately before and after a holiday, he said.

At River Road Middle School, 17 teachers combined for 109 absences the first semester of 2015-16, Cartner said. Like Pasquotank Elementary, River Road Middle is also a low-performing school set to undergo a reform plan.

Shawn Barrington, a River Road Middle School parent, expressed concern about teacher absenteeism at the school during a community meeting at the Debry Community Center held to discuss the school reform plans. 

Barrington told Cartner that teacher absenteeism at River Road Middle was “kind of ridiculous,” given school teachers already have weekends and holidays off.

Barrington said that  “in the real world,” teachers would lose their jobs if they weren’t showing up for work.

“But these people are still there, collecting a paycheck, and not doing their job,” he said.

Cartner told Barrington he had to be careful when speaking publicly about individual educators, citing state personnel laws. But he said district accountability for teacher attendance has increased.

“You may say, ‘Well, is it working?’” he said. “It’s working somewhat.”

Cartner announced several weeks ago that four schools – Pasquotank Elementary, River Road Middle, P.W. Moore Elementary and Elizabeth City Middle – will, at the start of July, undergo in-house reforms to improve students’ low performance on annual state testing.

On the state’s A-F grading system, Pasquotank Elementary and River Road Middle have consistently received Ds; River Road also received an F in math one year, Cartner said.

According to Cartner, schools deemed low-performing by the state because of consistently low test scores are at risk of being placed in what’s known as an Achievement School District. If a school is placed in the ASD, the local school district loses control of it, but still has to provide transportation to students and maintenance to the building. The low-performing school then becomes subject to management by an Educational Management Organization.

To avoid losing control of a school, districts are allowed to adopt one of four state-approved reform models for the school, Cartner has said. Those include transformation and restart, which the school district chose for its four schools. The other two are turnaround and closure.

According to Cartner, the district chose the transformation model for P.W. Moore and ECMS because neither school’s principal has been at the school longer than two years. The other two schools were chosen for restart because they have administrators who have been at the schools for some time and “student performance has not changed,” a school handout stated.

Pasquotank Elementary School Principal Shawn Wilson announced her resignation from the school in a letter last week. Wilson said in the letter she was resigning for personal reasons. District officials have not commented on her resignation.

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