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Principals upbeat on state of schools

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By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Sunday, September 22, 2019

In presentations before the school board last week, six school principals in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank district were upbeat about the state of their schools.

The principals presented reports that included data on student development and school population as well as their school’s challenges and goals for the year.

The six schools included River Road Middle School, Northeastern High School, Sheep-Harney Elementary, Elizabeth City Middle School, H.L. Trigg Community School and Central Elementary. Principals from the district’s remaining seven schools will make their presentations at a later school board meeting.

The following includes highlights from three of the six principals’ presentations. The remaining three presentations will be reported in an edition next week.

Principal Adrian Fonville, of River Road, presented the first report. He opened with numbers indicating student proficiency growth in math and reading. River Road students’ math proficiency improved from 41 percent in the 2016-17 school year to 52 percent this past year, he said. In the same period, reading proficiency grew from 49 percent to 59 percent.

Overall student proficiency at River Road has exceeded state growth expectations each of the last two years. “We also exceeded growth two consecutive years, so we’re proud of that,” Fonville told the school board. Growth exceeded expectations by 4.42 percent in 2017-18 and by 7.51 percent last year, he said.

“We’re very proud of that and our kids are growing,” Fonville said.

River Road currently has 579 students and 30 teachers. Fifty-two percent of the students are black, 31 percent are white, and another 17 percent represent other groups, such as multiracial, Asian, among others, Fonville said. The percentage of students considered economically disadvantaged is 65.

Fonville cited bullying as one challenge school officials are facing head on.

“There is a perception that bullying is widespread throughout River Road,” he told the board. “Our response to that is we’ve increased student education and awareness of bullying and its prevention through student character education lessons taught by our school counselors.”

Fonville said parents’ perception that the school is struggling to educate children is another challenge.

“This perception by parents that River Road is still a failing school,” he said. “We’ve maintained our ‘C’ for two consecutive years. We are not a failing school.”

Up next was Mickey Drew, principal at Central Elementary.

Central Elementary achieved a score of 64.5 percent student proficiency, the school met its state growth goals and achieved a performance grade of 68, which is a letter grade of “C.” The school was just “two agonizing” points away from earning a “B” this year, Drew said.

“This is the second year in a row that our staff has received, and our students have earned that score of 68 on the performance index,” he said. “Our goal this year is we’re going to accomplish a 70 percent or better. We’re going to be a ‘B’ school and that is what our focus is going to be with our students every day.”

Central has 366 students and of them 52.2 percent are white, 34.2 percent are black, 10.1 percent are Hispanic or Latino, and 3.5 percent represent other groups. Student daily attendance last year was nearly 100 percent, Drew pointed out.

“This is a big deal for us, as it is for any school,” Drew said. “If students aren’t there they can’t learn.”

Attendance last year was 96 percent, he said.

“Our goal this year is to increase that to 97 percent, because the more we have in there the more they can learn,” Drew said.

Central Elementary has 24 teachers, and six of them have zero to 3 years teaching experience, he said.

“We have four teachers who have between 4 to 10 years of experience,” Drew continued. “Then we have 14 out of our 24 — 58.3 percent of our staff — who have 10 or more years of experience.”

Drew said Central’s faculty has a good mix between experienced teachers, who support and mentor the younger ones, and the younger teachers, who can offer new ideas for improvement.

“We are blessed to have a very diverse staff. We’re blessed to have a very eager staff and one that keeps our students at the center of all we do,” he said.

Presenting for H.L. Trigg Community was Principal Kristopher Reis. Trigg is a non-traditional school where students often enter and leave throughout the year, Reis explained.

“Their stays can from vary from a semester to a year and it depends on the individual’s goals,” he said.

For example, he said counselors are currently working with one student who has been given goals to reach before he can return to the school he attended before Trigg.

Reis explained how the state measures academic performance for Trigg and other alternative schools differently. Instead of saying Trigg meets or exceeds state proficiency standards, the school is said to be either declining, maintaining or progressing from those standards.

The base measurement is 60 and a designation of “progressing” means a school has grown at least 3 points from the previous year, he said. “Maintaining” means a school scored between 2.9 points less than the previous year’s score and 2.9 points greater than the previous year’s score. “Declining,” meanwhile, means a school score dropped 3 or more points from the previous year.

Trigg showed improvement in the last year, Reis pointed out.

“Our designation, this past year school year, we are maintaining level,” he said. “The school year before we were a declining level. So, there’s been some growth that happened and I’m excited about that part.”

The current Trigg student body is made of eight males and one female in the middle school grades. In the high school grades, there are 14 males and eight females, Reis said. Twenty of the students are black, seven are white, one is Hispanic and three are multiracial students.

Reis said each year Trigg is required to submit an accountability report to the state explaining why students were transferred to the school. For example, twp of the middle school students are enrolled because of academic difficulty and two others are there either by their or their parent’s choice.

Students enrolled at Trigg by choice may be struggling with social or emotional needs.

“I have one student with anxiety is so bad we can barely get him in the building sometimes,” Reis said.

High school students at Trigg are there for a “whole gamut” of reasons, from academic difficulty to attendance issues, he said.

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