North Rowan High pleads for more support from school board

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury Post
Dozens of students, staff and supporters of North Rowan High School wanted to make one thing clear Monday night: They matter too.
In the wake of dropping enrollment rates and a place on the governor’s watchlist of poor-performing schools, North Rowan needs some attention, Corinne Mauldin told Rowan-Salisbury school board members.
“We do not feel that we are getting the support from this board,” said Mauldin, the school’s parent-teacher association president.
Mauldin has two sons at North Rowan. At her house, homework is a priority, she said.
But when the school gets bumped down to the 1-A athletic division in a couple of years, her son’s baseball team will have to travel ó sometimes more than an hour away ó for games. He might not get home until 11:30, then spend two hours or more on homework, Mauldin said.
“How would you like your child to be in that situation in two years?” Mauldin asked the board members.
Late nights mean her children, and others at the school, won’t be at the top of their game the next day at school, Mauldin said.
The looming change in the athletic division comes from fewer students at North Rowan. The school has about 680 students this year, compared with about 730 last year, said Rodney Bass, North Rowan’s principal.
A few years ago, the school board shifted district lines, sending about 100 students from North Rowan to Salisbury High, Bass said.
Athletics aren’t the only thing affected by declining enrollment. Some students are being forced to go to other schools for classes not offered at North Rowan, said Keith Howe, a teacher there.
“Because of our shrinking enrollment, there are classes we can’t offer,” Howe said. “Kids just can’t get the classes they need.”
A few dozen students attended the board meeting. They broke out in applause when Mauldin said they’re not going to be silent anymore.
Mauldin said the school board seems to send a message that North Rowan isn’t as important as other schools.
But it is important, and the school board needs a plan to help North Rowan, said Bryce Beard, a board member.
“I think it’s time for us all to be an advocate for North,” Beard said.
As is common for the school board, a committee of board members will brainstorm ways to make improvements. Karen Carpenter, Jean Kennedy and Beard will evaluate what North Rowan needs and make suggestions at the school board’s retreat in June.
Board member Kay Wright Norman suggested the issue not go to a committee. The entire board needs to be at the table, she said, a sentiment that got more applause from North Rowan folks.
But a smaller committee could get input from parents and present their findings to the board, said Dr. Jim Emerson, chairman of the board.
“We need to get on this as quickly as possible,” Emerson said.
A solution might require something as drastic as shifting attendance lines so more students would attend North Rowan, Emerson said. Offering more classes might help too, Carpenter said.
“The bottom line is we need some kids,” Howe said.
Whatever the solution, students are tired of feeling discouraged, said Anna Lingle, a senior at North Rowan.
“The thing that is upsetting is to always hear the negatives and never the positives,” Lingle said.
Also during Monday’s meeting:
– Rowan County commissioners won’t budget money this year for a new central office, Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, told school leaders.
But the county knows the school system needs a new central office, Chamberlain said. Commissioners are prepared to start talking about options for a new building in August, he said.
That said, Chamberlain encouraged school leaders not to spend more money on the aging administration building on Long Street.
– The school board approved the first reading of a plan to allow some students to earn a high school diploma with fewer credits.
The plan, which would be for students at Henderson Independent School, would require students to have 21 credits instead of 28, which is the standard in Rowan.
The state requirement is 20 credits.
The goal is to reduce dropout rates. School leaders will decide whether to approve the plan next month.
– Starting next year, high school students will have to pay $50 a year to park at school, the board decided Monday. Now, students pay $35 a year. The increase will provide money to pave the lots and fix potholes.
Contact Sarah Nagem at snagem@salisburypost.com or 704-797-7683.

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