Change of heart

Published 8:26 am Wednesday, July 3, 2013

JACKSON – The approved reconfiguration of Northampton County Public Schools lasted less than 10 days.

At their regularly scheduled meeting here Monday, the Northampton Board of Education emerged from a closed session and voted to rescind the board’s action taken on June 22 in regards to the realignment of the schools for the 2013-14 academic year.

In a 4-3 vote, the board opted to:

Keep all high school students on a single campus (at the current location of Northampton County High School in Creeksville);

Leave Squire Elementary School in Gaston configured as grades Pre-K to K;

Leave Gaston Elementary School configured as grades 1-4; and leave Gaston Middle School configured as grades 5-8.

The board did not have a change of heart on the status of the Northampton Alternative School, opting to still close that building. Willis Hare Elementary School in Pendleton, Centra lElementary School in Jackson, and Conway Middle School will remain as they are currently configured.

The vote came after a considerable discussion among the board. In the end, Rhonda Taylor, Phil Matthews, Don Johnson and Marjorie Edwards voted in favor of rescinding the decision reached by the board on June 22. Erica Smith-Ingram, Kelvin Edwards and Clinton Williams voted against the motion.

Taylor, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, said she made a couple of motions at the June 22 meeting to leave the schools the way they were.

“I really didn’t want to go that way (reconfiguration); there was not enough time until the opening of the new school year in August for our students, parents and staff to make such an adjustment,” Taylor stressed.

She added that the board opted last year to combined Northampton-East and West high schools into a single campus in Creeksville and that decision was a wise move.

“We combined the schools to offer better courses, they were better; plus the students really got along well together,” she said. “The opportunities were there to get a better education. After the decision was made June 22 to go back to having two high school campuses there were a lot of students who were upset. Those from the western end of the county really liked their new classmates.”

She said there is a need to invest the money spent operating two high school campuses to serve a single campus, one staffed with great teachers armed with the latest technology that can better prepare the students.

“It’s not the building, it’s the product inside that building, the ones teaching and preparing our children for the real world, one that’s now a global market,” she noted.

“I feel we rushed to a decision on June 22,” she added. “We were told from the facilities study we paid for that our schools, especially the older ones, could serve us well for the next three to five years. We can now use that time to develop and open a new centrally located high school.”

It was at the June 22 meeting, a seven-hour marathon, where the board of education, in a 4-2 vote (Marjorie Edwards was absent), reconfigured the schools as follows:

– Close the Northampton Alternative School. There will be no replacement building.

– Reconfigure SquireElementary School to Pre-K through 2nd grades.

– Reconfigure Gaston Elementary to grades 3-6.

– Reconfigure Gaston Middle School to 7th through 12th grades.

– All other schools will remain the same.

Johnson and Matthews opposed that reconfiguration.

With the change to Gaston Middle, that meant (although there was no discussion of school boundary lines), that high school students on the western end would attend classes in Gaston while those on the eastern side of the county will still call the Creeksville campus of Northampton High as home. Effectively, there would only be one Northampton County High School (based on the June 22 decision), but those students would attend classes on two different campuses.

After Monday’s vote, the district will operate as it did during the 2012-13 school year with the exception of the Alternative School.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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