School redistricting discussed at BOE candidates’ forum
By Jessie Burchette
Any redistricting to fill vacant seats at North Rowan High School will affect every school district in the county, including elementary and middle schools.
Current school board members shed more light on redistricting plans during a forum sponsored by the Salisbury NAACP Wednesday evening at the Rowan County Library.
Jim Emerson, chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, said the plan will be triggered when growth in the south end of the county fills schools there to over capacity.
“When Carson and South Rowan exceed capacity, we will pull the trigger,” Emerson said, explaining there will be a series of choice zones that will allow for movement of students northward to other schools.
Bryce Beard, a school board member and a member of the redistricting committee, reiterated Emerson’s comment, saying the growth is coming from the south.
With the plan to fill schools northward as growth occurs, Beard said the school system won’t have to build additional schools for a decade.
Emerson said the plans for the redistricting and the choice zones will be announced this spring to let everybody know what will happen when the board decides to pull the trigger.
Beard and Linda Freeze, two incumbents who have no opposition, joined Emerson and Eric Trail at the forum.
Trail, a former teacher in the Rowan -Salisbury Schools, is challenging Emerson for the East District Seat.
Trail is currently an administrator in the Cabarrus County Schools. He said he believes educators are best suited to make decisions about education.
Emerson, a 31-year-educator, said there is much yet to be done. He praised Dr. Judy Grissom, superintendent, and the administrative team for changing the direction of the system.
Emerson, Trail and the other board members answered a wide array of questions dealing with fuel costs, benefits of changing school schedules, a consolidated central office and the battle against obesity in students and teachers.
Not all candidates answered all of the questions.
Emerson got the biggest laugh of the evening when asked about starting high school at 10 a.m. to better accommodate teens. “I always thought it was uncivilized to go to work at 7:30,” Emerson quipped.
No one endorsed the 10 a.m. start time.
Emerson and Trail said schools must target parents to cut the dropout rate and improve the graduation rate.
Both said dropping out has become a generational thing ó kids drop out because their parents did.
“We haven’t given up on dropouts; we keep working on it,” Emerson said, comparing it to heart disease. While they haven’t found a cure, they keep making progress.
Responding to a question about North Rowan High School, Trail said it may take more than redistricting. He suggested dealing with the perception. “If you have people who don’t want to be there, they will find a way,” Trail said.
He suggested working with the school, parents, alumni and finding out what makes them avid supporters of the school and then build on that.