Willis Hare off state takeover list

Published 11:27 am Monday, October 16, 2017

PENDLETON – Northampton County received the good news Friday afternoon that Willis Hare Elementary School will not be a part of the state’s new Innovative School District (ISD) which is set to begin next year.

“We are thankful we were not selected this year, and we do not intend to be eligible for consideration next year,” said Northampton School Superintendent, Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter.

When the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) released its annual school performance grades in early September, they also released a list of the 48 lowest performing schools in consideration for ISD. That list was later whittled down to six eligible schools, including Willis Hare Elementary.

Being selected for the district would have meant that the elementary school would have been placed under a charter or educational management organization for a five-year period. The local school system would have still been responsible for things such as transportation and meal programs, but not educational matters.

Now the local elementary school doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.

Smith-Woofter praised the staff at Willis Hare for their dedication and commitment throughout the whole process.

“They definitely did a good job of gracefully and professionally handling the circumstance over the past several months,” she said. “I’m sure some days have been more stressful than others.”

After a visit with the elementary school Friday, she said, “One thing’s for certain: they’re much more motivated and determined to be the drivers of their own destination. Their goal is, by the end of this year, to show exactly what our students can do.”

Northampton County’s Board of Education will be hosting a public forum at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17 at the gym of the school, located at 479 Willis Hare Road, Pendleton. The topic of discussion will still be the Innovative School District even though they’re no longer in consideration.

“We want to make sure our public understands what the Innovative School District is, what it means, and the implications and effects that it will have on a school and a school district for those who will be considered for eligibility,” Smith-Woofter explained, encouraging the community to attend and take part in the discussion.

“Everyone needs to understand how important it is to help our students be able to demonstrate what they know,” she continued.

In December, the State Board of Education will make their final decision on which schools will join the district for the 2018-19 school year. Then it’s up to the local school board to either join ISD or, by law, shut the school down.

Smith-Woofter said she wasn’t sure what would happen if the selected schools decided to shut down.

“I’ve actually asked that very question, and there hasn’t been any response with regards to that. We’ve had several informational meetings across the state, asking that question,” she remarked.

The superintendent said she believes the NC General Assembly and the State Board of Education would have to make a decision on that. Whatever the case may be, she said she hoped the community and parents of the chosen schools would be just as supportive as the Northampton County community has been.

“I want to thank the community and parents for their commitment and reengagement, especially over the past several weeks. They’ve been very encouraging to the staff,” she acknowledged. “They have come to the school and asked what can we do to be of support and to help our students. Everybody has to take responsibility of investing in our children.”