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Restart schools eye more flexibiltiy

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, March 23, 2018

As River Road Middle School and Pasquotank Elementary School near the three-quarter mark of their first year under the “restart” school reform model, both are eyeing changes to staffing and school organization for next year — including a plan at River Road to adopt a schedule similar to the district’s Early College.

A report by River Road’s School Improvement Team this week said adopting the Early College calendar “will enable us to bring a select group of students and staff back early to get students prepared in advance for the upcoming school year.”

The calendar change will provide 25 additional days of instruction for “targeted students,” according to the report, which was submitted to the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education, Monday afternoon.

School improvement team members also noted that the Early College calendar would allow River Road to complete its first semester before the Christmas break.

River Road Middle and Pasquotank Elementary are following the restart model of school reform this year because students at both have consistently scored poorly on annual state testing. Two other low-performing schools, Elizabeth City Middle School and P.W. Moore Elementary School, began the “transformation” model this year but are applying for restart status for the 2018-19 school year.

Providing schools with more “flexibility” is the driving force in both the transformation and restart models, according to information provided by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Schools implementing both reform models this year are still learning how much flexibility they have and how to translate it into better student achievement.

According to its improvement team’s report, River Road Middle plans to use its flexibility to hire both math and reading “interventionists” to provide students with additional instruction and support in those subjects. 

A math teacher “leader” also is in the works for River Road. School administrators noted that math is the subject that students tend to do the poorest on in state testing.

River Road has already hired an “in-school suspension coordinator” to help address discipline issues, the improvement team’s report states. The idea for creating the position was “to keep students in school where they could remain in the learning environment and complete their classwork,” according to the report.

Pasquotank Elementary School is also focusing on some personnel adjustments for next year, including hiring a full-time teacher for academically gifted students.

Pasquotank Elementary is also focusing on students’ well-being and “competence,” according to its improvement team’s report. That’s why it wants to bring in a “social and emotional learning team” that includes a full-time nurse, a social worker, a full-time counselor, and what it refers to as a “family engagement coordinator.”

Pasquotank Elementary’s improvement team is also recommending the hiring of full-time instructional assistants for grades K-2 as well as additional instructional assistants in grades 3-5. The report also seeks the hiring of part-time reading and math specialists.

The school’s improvement team acknowledges that it is still learning about the opportunities available under the restart model.

“Although we do not fully understand the finance piece, we do understand that some flexibility can be used such as hiring an art teacher part-time so the other funds could support the hiring of an additional instructional assistant,” the report states.

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