Policy advocate: School reforms an opportunity


Sarah Montgomery, a policy advocate with the Education Law Project of the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh, speaks at a community forum on local school reform efforts at the Pasquotank County Courthouse, Tuesday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A education policy advocate for the Raleigh-based N.C. Justice Center told parents, teachers and local community activists Tuesday that the transformation and restart reform models selected for four low-performing schools in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools should be viewed as an opportunity.

Sarah Montgomery, who works with the Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, told a crowd of about 50 at the Pasquotank Courthouse that, although “the restart model is a little more dramatic,” both it and the transformation model allow for local control and local decisions.

Montgomery was invited to speak at the meeting by the Pasquotank branch of the NAACP following ECPPS officials’ recent decision to adopt the transformation reform model for Elizabeth City Middle School and P.W. Moore Elementary School and the restart reform model for Pasquotank Elementary School and River Road Middle School.

Montgomery said no matter what you call the reform model, “the goal is strong community schools that are meeting the needs of the students.”

An important policy goal is getting more resources for the schools, Montgomery said. Every local school district has been losing money for charter schools, she said.

“This is a way to recapture some of that money,” Montgomery said.

Pasquotank NAACP President Keith Rivers said some principals want people to come and mingle with the students at lunchtime.

He encouraged people to find a way to help as a tutor, mentor, lunch buddy or whatever works for them that the principal says will be a help to the school.

“Let's hold ourselves accountable,” Rivers said.

Rivers said the NAACP will hold the school system accountable for how it handles school reform.

“But we have to be the man or the woman in the mirror,” Rivers said.

Rivers said he often hears people lament that problems with education begin in the home.

“We know that it starts at home but that's not an excuse for us not to do what we can do,” Rivers said.

N.C. Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs Larry Hall, who was in Elizabeth City this week for a visit to the Coast Guard Base and a speaking engagement at the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce's annual Military Affairs Committee Award Luncheon, told the group that the number one thing he hears from commanders at military installations across the state is a concern for education.

“The importance of what you are doing can't be overstated,” Hall said. “It's not about what someone else is doing right now. What are you going to do?”

Hall also encouraged people at the meeting to hold their public officials accountable.

“Your public officials work for you,” he said. “Put them to work.”

Glenda Griffin, a former member of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education, asked if there were things that worked other places that could be implemented in Elizabeth City.

Montgomery said she has been working with schools in Warren County and Edgecombe County, and they are having a good experience with the transformation model.

Rivers said those counties can be a good resource for Pasquotank,.

“There are other communities that are in this process,” he said.

The Rev. Anthony Ferebee, senior site pastor at The Mount in Elizabeth City, spoke about the church's program for students in grades 1-4 known as the High Achievers Homework Club. Ferebee said a successful program for students requires vision, commitment and investment of resources.

William and Judy Tripp said their grandson is in the fourth grade at Pasquotank Elementary and is not changing classes this year. He is doing geometery in math class, which is difficult, they said.

They also said they thought it was hard on teachers to have to teach all subjects.

“I think if the teachers need help they need to get it,” said Judy Tripp.

ECCPS Superintendent Larry Cartner, who also attended Tuesday’s meeting, said later that the geometry being taught in the fourth grade is not comparable to high school geometry. Rather, it is geometry on a fourth-grade level, he said.

“It is the principal's decision as to whether or not to departmentalize,” ECPPS stated Wednesday in response to a query from the Daily Advance. “Also, elementary teachers are taught in college how to teach all subjects.”

The NAACP plans to continue hosting public forums on education such as the one held Tuesday night, Rivers said.