Board voices support for Bertie Early College High School

Published 7:21 pm Friday, May 20, 2011

WINDSOR – Members of the Bertie County Board of Education took offense to the notion they will not support the Bertie Early College High School.

During Tuesday’s special session, Bertie County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debbie Harris-Rollins told board members that Tony Habit, the head of the New Schools Project had told her the organization was concerned about the system’s support of the school.

“He asked for two things,” Dr. Harris-Rollins said. “One, if the board is going to move forward with the school in some form and two, the timeline for a draft of the Memorandum of Understanding.”

Board Vice Chair Pamela Chamblee asked what Habit meant by those questions.

Dr. Harris-Rollins explained that after representatives from the New Schools Project left the last school board meeting, they felt the board did not want to continue with the project.

“Someone please tell me what was said that made them walk away from that meeting thinking we did not want to continue with the school,” Chamblee said, adding that she felt the board made their support clear.

Dr. Harris-Rollins said she spoke to Habit about the meeting and told him that while she would not speak for the board, she had never received an indication that there was anything but support for the school.

Chamblee asked what the New Schools Project wanted from the board.

Assistant Superintendent Carol Atkins told board members they wanted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that clearly spelled out what each entity involved in the school would do to support it.

“My understanding is that they don’t believe, for whatever reason, that we want to support the Bertie Early College High School,” Atkins said. “As far as I know, that has never been the case.”

Chamblee said she thought the Early College was a great concept and that she had seen some of the work at the school.

Atkins added that the New Schools Project was concerned over the school being in operation without a formal MOU. Atkins said the board had previously approved one, but it was never followed up on by the New Schools Project or N.C. State University.

Chamblee said there had been misconceptions about the school for some time including the idea that the school board wanted to move the school to the Vernon James Center when the idea had never come to the board.

Chamblee and board member Emma Johnson both said they had concerns about what information was being shared with parents of the students at the school and that they wanted to make sure the parents were getting accurate information.

Dr. Harris-Rollins said some of the changes made by the school system staff in the MOU were designed to offer clarity so the district could communicate the information to parents.

Johnson said she was still not clear about the school’s curriculum though, she had been promised information about it when the New Schools Project representatives appeared before the board.

Following the discussion, Board Chair Gloria Lee instructed Dr. Harris-Rollins to inform the New Schools Project that the county was moving forward with the Bertie Early College High School and the draft memorandum should be on the June school board agenda.