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Panel: Early college meeting its mission

080818 Camden Early College

Amber Davis, principal of both Camden County High School and Camden Early College, is shown during an interview in August. Davis led a committee that recently studied the future of the early college.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, April 15, 2019

CAMDEN —  A local committee that studied the future of Camden Early College High School has determined the school serves an important purpose and is recommending it continue operating.

Amber Davis, who serves as principal of both Camden County High School and Camden Early College High School, led a presentation by committee members to the Camden Board of Education Thursday night.

“We are offering a service to students that I think is very important in our district,” Davis said.

The first and most decisive of the committee’s recommendations was that the early college should continue, she said. The panel found the school has been true to its mission of serving students in five categories: First-time college students, students with one or more parent who did not finish high school, students at risk of not finishing high school, students from groups that are under-represented in higher education, and students who can benefit from an accelerated high school schedule. Most of the early college’s students fit into more than one of those groups.

Michael Reaves, administrative intern at Camden Early College, also told the board that the school’s students have an overall 77 percent success rate in college classes, meaning they earn grades of “C” or better.

In this year’s graduating class, 52 percent of students are on track to finish with a degree, certificate or skill diploma from College of The Albemarle as well as their high school diploma, Reaves said. He pointed out the class started at what was then known as CamTech High School and went through the transition to the early college.

Among the Class of 2020, which is the first class to have started and completed all four years of high school at the early college, 80 percent of students are on track to earn a degree, certificate or diploma from COA, according to Reaves.

Reaves noted that compares to only about 35 percent of early college students statewide finishing with a community college degree or certificate.

Davis said the committee also found the early college really isn’t a net cost to the school district. If the early college were not in operation, all teaching positions — with the possible exception of one career and technical education teacher — would still be needed because the early college’s students would be in classes at Camden High School, she explained.

Camden Early College gets $275,000 a year in state Cooperative and Innovative High Schools funding, which pays for two support positions and any other expenses unique to the school.

The committee also reported that it had surveyed staff at the two high schools to see what they thought of the current administrative setup, with one principal serving both schools.

The Camden County High School respondents were split, with half preferring the current model and half favoring each school having its own principal. Among early college respondents, three-fourths preferred the current model.

In an interview Friday, Camden Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell explained that the committee had not been charged specifically with the task of determining whether Camden Early College should continue in operation. The question arose naturally during the committee’s own work, he said.

As for the committee’s finding about whether one principal should continue to oversee both the early college and the high school, Ferrell said he will meet with Davis before making a recommendation to the school board.

The board is slated to discuss the committee’s report and recommendations at its meeting in May.

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