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Consultants: Transfers complicate school redistricting discussion

By Maggie Blackwell
mblackwell@salisburypost.com
Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education members learned Monday that almost one in 10 high school students attends a school outside of his or her school zone. Of the 6,423 high school students in the system, 620 ó or 9.5 percent ó do not attend their “home” schools.
Jeff Tsai and Tom Cook, consultants from OR/Ed Lab at N.C. State University, presented the figures to a surprised school board at Monday night’s called work session. The board had asked the consultants to develop a presentation on potential redistricting of high schools.
Tsai and Cook stopped short of redistricting recommendations, however, when they saw the large disparity between where students are supposed to go to school, and where they actually go.
As a result of the high transfer rate, the OR/Ed consultants recommended the board take one of four steps before considering redistricting:
– Do nothing about the transfers;
– Take action to limit future transfers;
– Take action to limit future transfers with an attendance study;
– Develop optimal districts for attendance, disregarding transfers.
The figures were pulled from actual student records in the North Carolina schools’ attendance system, NC Wise. The consultants used two pieces of information from the high school students’ records: their home addresses and the schools they attend.
OR/Ed has consulted for 60 school districts in North Carolina on the issue of redistricting.
“This migration analysis is a shocker to me,” said school board Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson. He seemed to capture the reaction of the rest of the board.
Board member Patty Williams asked, “Can we identify how each transfer happened?”
Rowan-Salisbury School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said she believes a majority of the transfers are children of Rowan-Salisbury teachers. Children of staff are allowed to attend the school of their choice. She proposed the system quantify employee transfers first, then identify why the remaining transfers have happened.
Board members generally agreed.
Of the six traditional high schools, Carson currently has the most students who transferred in, with a total of 122. West came in second with 101. Salisbury High is close behind, with 90.
Salisbury High leads in the number of students who have transferred out, with a total of 192. Sixty-nine of those attend Henderson Independent School. All the other high schools have 10 or fewer students at Henderson.
North Rowan High had the second-highest number of students who had transferred out, with 126. The remaining high schools average 75 out-transfers.
The request for redistricting information was prompted by growing concern about decreasing enrollment at North Rowan High School. The school’s athletic teams have been assigned to a conference for smaller schools next year.
Board member Karen Carpenter expressed concern for the North Rowan High School community, asking, “When will we be able to do something about this?”
Grissom assured Carpenter school system officials will get to it as soon as possible.
In other action, the board unanimously voted to extended Grissom’s contract for an additional year, through 2013, following a closed session.

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