Bertie AYP draws mixed response

Published 9:48 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

WINDSOR – The news that four Bertie County elementary schools reached Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals is sitting well with district officials.

The fact that Bertie High School continues to struggle did not.

When preliminary results were released last week, Aulander Elementary School, Colerain Elementary School, West Bertie Elementary School and Windsor Elementary each reached AYP.

“We’ve worked pretty hard to specifically place principals where they can change results,” Dr. Chip Zullinger, superintendent of Bertie County Schools, said. “When we’ve had situations where that didn’t happen, we’ve made changes.

“Principals are the key to make changes,” he added. “They did a good job interpreting data and getting a handle on how we use resources.”

For Windsor, it was the first time reaching AYP since 2004. Those changes came under the leadership of Renee Duckenfield, who took over the lead role at the school at the beginning of last year.

“I think it’s huge for us,” Dr. Zullinger said of Windsor Elementary meeting AYP. “That makes Windsor Elementary a more appealing choice for our largest community. I think a lot of people who didn’t have children enrolled in public schools now see that as a choice.

“Mrs. Duckenfield did a good job,” he added. “She was the one who pulled West Bertie out of the mud and that’s part of the reason we made that move.”

When Duckenfield left West Bertie, Dr. Zullinger and the Bertie County Board of Education moved Wayne Mayo into the principal’s post. That move was also rewarded by the school again reaching AYP.

“Mr. Mayo had a proven track record at C.G. White and at Bertie High School so I knew he wouldn’t let things drop at West Bertie,” Dr. Zullinger said. “He went there and maintained the high standards.”

Dr. Zullinger also complimented the work of Aulander Elementary Principal Elaine White and Colerain Principal Fannie Williams.

“Aulander has been a high performer since Mrs. White went there,” he said. “It’s the smallest school and it has done well.

“Colerain came along this year,” he added. “Particularly at the third grade level where they pulled through with some strong results with Mrs. Williams leading the way.”

Bertie Middle School, in just its second year in existence, met AYP for the first time.

“I think the challenge Mrs. (Sandra) Hardy and her staff had is how to bring two faculties and indeed two communities together in the former C.G. White and Southwestern and make them one team,” Dr. Zullinger said. “She and her team did a phenomenal job getting the school to the point of making AYP.

“Every tested area showed substantial growth in the percentage of proficient students,” he added. “We know that they have some kids who didn’t have a strong academic performance in elementary school and they have done a good job of catching those kids up.”

Also reaching AYP for the second year was the Bertie STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) School.

“I think the kids selected to go to the STEM School are academically inclined for the most part,” Dr. Zullinger said. “Also, for the better part of the two years, the school has enjoyed the leadership of Glenwood Mitchell and a committed faculty.”

The superintendent also gave credit to the staff development provided to STEM teachers through the New Schools Initiative.

Dr. Zullinger also said he believed the choices available to high school parents in Bertie County was starting to pay off.

“We’ve really created parental choice in Bertie County,” Dr. Zullinger stressed. “With what Trey (William Peele III) has done as principal of the Ninth Grade Academy, the STEM School and the Early College, I think it’s obvious that competition has made all of them stronger.

“All of them show academic rigor,” he added. “They are independent, autonomous and have leaders who have the ability to make decisions and changes.”

The elementary, middle and high schools that showed progress were a direct link to the Bertie County Board of Education, the superintendent said.

“Our school board set performance targets,” Dr. Zullinger said. “In mid-spring, the board said they wanted to see 20 percent growth. I think that once the board focused the schools on what they needed to be doing, the schools organized around that.

“Our board is responsible for leading a raised expectation,” he added.

Bertie High School was the lone school that did not meet AYP for the county, but drastic changes have been made to that institution.

In May, Dr. Zullinger and the school board removed the interim principal and named Glenwood Mitchell as the Interim Principal and Norman Cherry as Interim Assistant Principal.

That change was just the beginning.

“There were a substantial number of teacher contracts at Bertie High School that were not renewed and some resignations were sought,” Dr. Zullinger said. “We didn’t have strong instruction in place in many places at our traditional high school.”

Dr. Zullinger said the Freshman Academy, whose results are part of the high school, did well, but that the traditional BHS did not.

“A big emphasis for Mr. Mitchell is getting new quality teachers at Bertie High,” the superintendent said. “We have had some qualities hires over the summer.”

Dr. Zullinger stressed Mitchell and Cherry leading the school would make a difference.

“Strong leadership is important to meet AYP,” he added. “I think they can do it next year. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions. This year, we made a lot of changes at Bertie High due to academic non-performance.”