Board OKs district, school improvement plans


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education approved improvement plans for the district and six schools Monday that stress collaboration among teachers and regular monitoring by administrators as keys to boosting student achievement and pulling the schools out of “low-performing” status. 

The district is required to submit an improvement plans to state education officials because it was designated a low-performing district based on last year’s test scores. Individual plans are also required for six schools — Central Elementary, J.C. Sawyer Elementary, P.W. Moore Elementary, Pasquotank Elementary, Elizabeth City Middle and River Road Middle — that also are considered low performing because of test scores. The plans are due to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction early next month.

Only one person, whom school officials have identified as a parent of a student in the district, submitted written comments on the improvement plans. School officials said last week they took those comments into consideration, though no change was made to any of the language in the plans as a result of the comments.

Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has publicly asked local school officials to hold community meetings on the plans. He noted again at Monday’s board meeting that the NAACP had requested the forums in hopes of creating a dialogue in the community about the plans. 

Repeating a statement he made in an interview over the weekend, Rivers called not holding the forums to receive public input a “disservice to the community.” 

Rivers said additional outreach to the community would have been helpful because the wording of the plans is difficult to understand for anyone who is not a professional educator.

“No one knows what this plan is about,” Rivers said. “Make it simple. Make it plain.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Sharon Warden acknowledged in an interview Monday having mixed feelings about the amount of public input the board received on the plans. On the one hand, she said, it’s disappointing that the board didn’t receive more public comment on the plans.

“But I hope it means that people liked what we’re doing that’s why we didn’t get more comments,” she said. “And I do hope that people would trust us to do what needs to be done.”

Rivers said after Monday’s meeting that he is trying to be as positive as possible because his concern is for the district’s students. He said he supports community involvement because he believes it’s key to improving student achievement.

Rivers said the NAACP continues to seek public forums on district and school improvement.

The board also heard a teacher’s perspective on the school improvement process. Tia Carver, 2017-18 Teacher of the Year for River Road Middle School, told the board about the joys amd challenges of teaching, insisting that “teaching is not for the weak or faint of heart.”

Carver said last year was especially tough at River Road because of constant scrutiny about the school’s low-performing status. She said she gained some encouragement about the future, however, when she looked up at the sky following one particularly difficult school meeting and saw a rainbow. She said it assured her that God had a good plan for River Road and that she would be part of something very special at the school.

She said her colleagues put their students ahead of themselves every day.

As the meeting drew to a close, board members thanked Rivers for addressing the board and for his interest in the school improvement process. Warden also thanked Carver for her comments — especially the symbolism of the rainbow. She said she believes ECPPS will have a rainbow that will shine all across the state.

“I truly do believe that,” Warden said.

“We have a wonderful community,” Warden said, adding she wants to hear from anyone in the community about any concerns they have about the schools.

Warden said she is very proud of the staff, including teachers, custodians, bus drivers and maintenance workers.

Vice chairman Denauvo Robinson said he appreciated Rivers’ comments. He also appreciated staff’s efforts to build a better school system, he said.

“I’m proud to be on this board,” Robinson said.

Board member Barry Overman said it’s important to see the glass as half-full. He thanked Carver for bringing out the best in students, including his own son.