Two EC-Pasq. schools could move to 'restart' status


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank school officials will decide soon whether to offer Elizabeth City Middle School and P.W. Moore Elementary School greater flexibility by moving them to the “restart” model of school reform.

Superintendent Larry Cartner told board members during the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education planning retreat Thursday that the impetus for heading toward restart has come from the staff at the two schools, which currently are in the first year of the “transformation” reform model.

Although the transformation model is similar in many ways to the restart model being implemented at River Road Middle School and Pasquotank Elementary School, restart generally offers a greater deal of flexibility to principals as they seek to improve student achievement.

Cartner said school staff have indicated a desire for greater flexibility as a motivation for wanting to move to restart. While staff at both schools have expressed interest in restart, the staff at one of the schools has actually voted to seek the change. The schools are expected to hold parent and community meetings about the possible transition in the coming weeks.

Staff are moving away from seeing restart as punitive and beginning to understand the benefits of the flexibility it provides, according to Cartner.

The four schools were placed by ECPPS officials in the reform models this year after being identified by the state as persistently low-performing schools.

Joanne Sanders, ECPPS chief academic officers, said good things are happening at the restart schools. For instance, she told board members that all adults at Pasquotank Elementary — not just teachers and administrators — are paired with students for reading sessions. That is making a great difference for students, she said.

Steve Lassiter, ECPPS assistant superintendent of human resources and auxiliary services, explained that River Road Middle School and Pasquotank Elementary School are in the first year of restart, which is mainly a planning year with fuller implementation beginning next school year.

Lassiter said some of the flexibility available through restart will come into play more next year as schools explore possibilities such as adding school psychologists or school counselors in a shift of focus toward the whole child. The opportunity to add staff comes from effective use of the budgeting flexibility that the restart model offers.

If ECPPS is going to add schools to restart in the fall, the board needs to make that decision soon in order to have time to apply and get approval from the State Board of Education, Lassiter said.

Sanders added that earlier is better in terms of planning for the restart model.

Lassiter said the board will get more feedback on restart at River Road Middle and Pasquotank Elementary next year since that will be an implementation year after the current planning year.

Board member Virginia Houston said she was wondering about last year’s decision to place Elizabeth City Middle and P.W. Moore Elementary in the transformation model rather than the restart model.

“Why now and not then?” Houston asked.

Cartner replied that it was such an important step that they didn’t want to do four schools at once. The thought was if the results were what the schools wanted at the first two, then the other two could be added, he said.

The superintendent added that at this time he doesn’t envision adding any more schools to restart other than possibly Elizabeth City Middle and P.W. Moore Elementary.

Lassiter said ECPPS is learning from schools across the state that are implementing the restart model. He and Sanders agreed that reforms being implemented are not punitive. Lassiter added that it’s important to be clear that the reform models are supportive, not punitive.

Board Chairman Sharon Warden said she appreciates the willingness of staff and teachers to voice their thoughts.

At P.W. Moore Elementary, Cartner said, one of the biggest issues has been staff turnover. Now the staff is becoming more stable and that should yield positive results, he said. 

“I think that is one very big part of it,” Cartner said.