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School redistricting options to be unveiled Monday

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
A report on redistricting high schools is scheduled to be presented at Monday’s meeting of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
An educational consulting company from N.C. State University will present various options the board could take ó either now or in the future, according to Karen South Carpenter, who headed up an ad hoc redistricting committee for the board.
The meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. at the administrative offices at 110 N. Long St. in East Spencer, is open to the public.
Carpenter said representatives of OR/Ed (Operations Research and Education Laboratory) have been looking at changing the high school district lines “to allow all of our high schools to be more equitable in terms of student population.” The committee asked OR/Ed to look at ways to redistrict so that each high school would be between 80 percent and 87 percent capacity.
OR/ED uses mathematical techniques and state-of-the-art Decision Science applications to assist school districts dealing with difficult school reassignments and planning challenges.
Early on, Carpenter said OR/Ed came up with 50 different scenarios for redistricting. “So obviously, some got thrown off the table right away,” she said. “Their computers apparently have worked their magic and have come up with some scenarios that will be presented to the board Monday night, and we will look at these.
“To the best of my knowledge, a decision will not be made Monday night on redistricting.”
If the board decides to proceed with plans to redistrict, Carpenter said she feels strongly that the board needs to allow for citizen input.
The high school redistricting feasibility study stemmed from growing concern about the decreasing enrollment at North Rowan High School, which has led to the facility being underutilized and the school’s athletic teams being moved from a 2A to a 1A conference beginning this year.
North had been in the 2A conference with Salisbury High School, and the county’s other four high schools ó Carson, East, South and West ó are in a 3A conference.
Bryce Beard, who also serves on the redistricting committee, said it’s an issue that will have to be dealt with when the school system faces overcapacity issues at any of the high schools. However, he said that is not currently the case.
Beard said the declining enrollment at North stemmed from the board’s changing the high school districts with the opening of Carson High School in the fall of 2006. “We took kids from North and moved them to Salisbury,” he said, “and in doing so, it inevitably led to this point in time.
“So the question comes, ‘Is it important to put students at North to get their attendance up to a certain level or it is good enough that we don’t have any problems in terms of schools having overcapacity?’ ”
Most board members agreed that they’ll have to look at redistricting the high schools at some point to also address other issues such as the projected growth in the South Rowan High School district due to the N.C. Research Campus, but will have to decide when is the best time to do it.
Beard said he thinks the odds are 50-50 as to whether the board will proceed with redistricting now.
Jean Kennedy, who serves as vice chairperson of the board, also served on the Redistricting Committee, but declined comment on Monday’s presentation.
Board Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said the report will give the board an indication of the issues that need to be considered in a possible redistricting and the steps necessary to go about implementing a plan. “I don’t know that the board will entertain an attendance redistricting soon,” he said. “It’s hard for me to predict …
“To say that we’re going to redistrict now would send up all kinds of red flags and everybody’s going to get all excited and upset, and we’re not to that point yet.”
Emerson said the board members hired OR/Ed to do the study so it would be fair and unbiased. “But the thing that we’ve got to remember is that there is not a plan that will not affect every high school,” he said.
Board member Kay Wright Norman said she plans to listen to the report and read the the data and ask any questions at Monday’s public meeting. “When I’ve finished and it’s time for me to make a decision,” she said, “I will make it. I’m not one who is quick to rush to judgment when I haven’t heard the details.”
Linda Freeze said she has put her faith and trust in the Redistricting Committee members to work with OR/Ed to look at the different options. “I really feel that by it being an outside agency with no ties to Rowan County, it will be fair,” she said. “That’s what we’re all looking for is fairness to all these schools.”
After hearing Monday’s presentation, Freeze said the board will decide which direction to proceed.
Board member Patty Williams could not be reached for comment for this story.
Other items on the agenda for Monday’s board meeting include:
– Consideration of field trip requests submitted by East Rowan High School, Erwin Middle, West Rowan High, Salisbury High and Rowan County Early College;
– Tim Smith, director of student services for the school system, will review the final year of funding of the Safe and Drug Free School Grant;
– Colby Cochran, the system’s accountability director, will update the board on the revised testing and accountability guidelines for 2009-2010;
– The installation of security cameras at Knox Middle, China Grove Middle, North Middle and Horizons Unlimited. These are being made possible due to the cost of installation at all six high schools and Henderson Independent High School being less than expected.
The total cost of installing security cameras in the 11 facilities is $998,787.
– Gene Miller will review the capital projects completed during the 2008-2009 school year and the number of schools affected as well as the number of maintenance work orders submitted and the number completed.
– Dr. Walter Hart will present second readings of proposed amendments to policies on compulsory attendance, code of conduct and investigations by police.
– Board member Karen Carpenter will lead a discussion on corporal punishment.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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