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Early College High School is dead

WINTON n The Early College High School plan met a surprising end Monday night.

Following several changes to the grant proposal made by the office of Roanoke-Chowan Community College President Dr. Ralph Soney, the Hertford County Board of Education voted not to support the grant.

Representatives from Hertford County Public Schools and RCCC had been working on the creation of the new school for over two and a half years.

If the grant proposal to create the new school had been submitted and approved, the grant would have averaged $285,000 a year for five years, over $1.4 million.

Hertford County Public Schools received an initial $45,000 grant from the Governor’s office, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to write the implementation grant to create the school.

“I was asked to sit in on a steering committee meeting along with people from the community college,” Hertford County Board of Education Chairman David Shields said. “I understood the agreement would be like ours and supported the idea with no changes.”

“Then on Friday we received this information after our meeting,” Shields added.

In an earlier version of the implementation grant, RCCC would have provided “support for upkeep of the facility and for technology maintenance” and would have covered the “renovation, maintenance, and operational costs of the facility with appropriations from the Hertford County Commissioners.”

According to a copy of the grant obtained following Monday’s meeting, RCCC was struck from that statement and “Hertford County Schools” was inserted.

“What is the community college going to provide,” Shields asked.

“I don’t know,” Hertford County Schools Director of Career-Technical Education Dr. Brenda Tinkham said.

“Didn’t they go with us to the meetings,” Board of Education member Wendell Hall asked.

“This seems to be nothing but turfism,” Shields emphasized. “They are not willing to step up to the plate for the children of Hertford County.

“I am sorry for what is going to happen,” Shields added. “Our kids don’t deserve this.”

“I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the board, but the board did not know about any of these changes,” RCCC Board of Trustee member Ronald Gatling said.

“I was originally skeptical (of the Early College High School concept), but as time went on I saw that it would benefit the children of Hertford County,” Hall said. “I called around to other counties that have the program (including) Edgecombe, Johnston, and Durham.

“If it can work for them, it can work for us,” Hall continued. “It is something different and it will catch some of the children that fall through the cracks.

“I’m sorry Mr. Freeman (Chairman, Hertford County Board of Commissioners) is not here,” Hall added.

In an earlier meeting, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners chose not to support spending $55,000 on renovations to the facility on the campus of RCCC chosen to house the Early College High School.

“I hope the next time we do not allow politics to muddy the water,” Board of Education member Rev. Patrick Young said.

“I am 199 percent behind this concept,” Hall emphasized.

However, Hall and the other board members agreed that without the partnership of RCCC they could not support the program.

Hall made a motion to withdraw support for the grant proposal and it was passed unanimously.

“I want to thank them (the Early College High School planning team) for their hard work on this project,” Shields said.

In an interview with RCCC President Dr. Soney and RCCC Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Claude Odom Tuesday afternoon, Soney attempted to clarify why changes were made to the grant proposal.

“I did not make the changes to the grant proposal, but I am responsible for the changes,” Soney said.

Soney would not say who made the final changes, but explained that the grant was a constantly changing document and emphasized these changes were not the significant issue in play.

“I don’t feel this statement was reason to pull the grant,” Soney emphasized.

“The Board of Trustees fully supported the initiative,” Odom added.

Soney explained the real issue facing the potential Early College High School would be funding.

According to Soney, the community college does not have the resources to provide the level of upkeep and renovation to the facility that a project of this magnitude would require and explained only through additional appropriations from the Hertford County Board of Commissioners could the project work.

“This has been on the table from the beginning,” Soney said.