Education officials discuss competition

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2005

RICH SQUARE – Education is not about competition.

Remarks made by Northampton County Board of Education member Charles Tyner during Monday’s board meeting at Rich Square-Creecy Elementary served as a catalyst for some disgruntled parents and educators to step up to the podium.

&uot;Competition is good when you’re talking about a business, but you’re never in a competition when it comes to education,&uot; one parent said passionately in response to Tyner’s remarks, emphasizing responsibility and accountability on behalf of the board as well as the schools.

Tyner said the board needed to be aware that there was an educational alternative in the county, citing Gaston Preparatory School as &uot;competition for Northampton County&uot; Public Schools and claimed that the charter school took over 150 students from the Northampton County Public School System.

&uot;We can’t shut the charter schools down, but we can employ higher standards of discipline. That’s why we’re talking about uniforms,&uot; he said. &uot;We need to be aware of the impact Gaston Prep is having on our public schools.&uot;

Out of concern for the &uot;welfare&uot; of the public school system, Tyner asked the board to consider addressing the issue by contacting their representatives via letter.

Speaking to the issue of lost finances and productivity, Tyner said, &uot;I think it should be mandated that children who are accepted into the charter school need to stay there for a minimum of one year, regardless of whether or not they meet the standards.&uot;

Board member Bill Little echoed his remarks. &uot;When kids go to a charter school, the money goes too. If they don’t conform, they are sent back to our schools, but the money stays there, so we have to double up. We have to get the state statutes changed.&uot;

Tyner placed emphasis on looking at what the board could do to improve the schools and maintain student count.

&uot;It costs just as much money to put gas in the bus to drive five students to school as it does 20, so why not fill it up,&uot; he asked. &uot;If this trend continues, we’re going to have to ask ourselves what the public schools are going to look like in three to four years.&uot;

Board Chair Catherine Moody added, &uot;Charter schools take our brightest and our best. We can’t stop them, but I believe discipline is key.&uot;

A father of a student currently enrolled in Northampton County Public Schools responded, stating that students were leaving for a reason and defended parents’ rights and natural inclination to do what was best for their kids, while another parent stated that she was contemplating alternatives to the Northampton County Public School System.

&uot;As an educator and parent of an academically gifted child, I don’t feel like Northampton County Schools are doing the job,&uot; she said.

At the close of the meeting, one common thread prevailed. It’s not about charter schools or public schools, it’s about getting the best education they can for their kids.