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PTA members rally to stop reclassification at North Rowan

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
SPENCER ó Members of the PTA at North Rowan High and other community leaders are working to keep the school in a 2A athletics classification.
They’re doing so, they say, not for athletics, but for the sake of academics.
A letter addressed to the N.C. High School Athletic Association in Chapel Hill will be read Thursday as part of an appeals process involving North Rowan. The letter is being signed by parents with children at the school and will be faxed to the NCHSAA today.
“We are writing as a group of concerned parents, teachers and community supporters of North Rowan High School,” the letter begins. “Our intent is not to ask for special favors that undermine the nature of high school sports, but to bring to your attention the great strain North Rowan’s new assignment to a 1A conference will place on our ultimate goal of student-centered education.”
North Rowan has been reclassified to a distant 1A conference that includes schools from Chatham, Montgomery and Moore counties. The reclassification takes effect in the fall of 2009.
Corrine Mauldin, president of North Rowan’s PTA and a member of its School Improvement Team, and Kim Lentz, a media center assistant who has had children graduate from the school, are leading the effort to have the reclassification overturned.
They note that North is one of 54 schools (and the only one in Rowan County) on Gov. Mike Easley’s High School Turnaround Program. The school was placed on the list due to a high number of students scoring below level on end-of-course tests.
Assessment teams are visiting the school to work with students and educators. The school has three years to turn its scores around or more severe steps will be taken.
“The schools we are assigned to play are located at extremely far distances from North Rowan,” the letter from North Rowan leaders continues. “The new conference will require that our student athletes travel 800 miles each season per athletic team.”
Mauldin and Lentz said they soon realized that covering such distances would require students to leave school early many days, being counter-productive to the efforts to raise North’s end-of-grade tests.
In addition, Mauldin and Lentz noted that traveling to these distant sites will cost the Rowan-Salisbury School System a minimum of an additional $15,000 annually in fuel costs.
But that’s a secondary concern, both Lentz and Mauldin said.
“This is not so much about athletics as it is quality education,” Mauldin said. “Athletics and education have to mesh.”
She said she’d made numerous phone calls to state officials ó with the governor’s office and N.C. Department of Public Education, included ó concerning North Rowan’s plight.
“I contacted everyone I felt could help,” Mauldin said.
She noted that borderline students who stay in school in order to play sports may see their grades suffer as a result of missing so many classes. That, Lentz and Mauldin said, may result in them becoming ineligible to play sports.
“This totally defeats what we’re trying to do,” Lentz said of the reclassification.
Thursday’s appeal will be the second North Rowan has made to the NCHSAA. The first, made in February, was denied.
Thursday’s appeal will be a closed-door affair made to the NCHSAA’s realignment committee. North’s leaders are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for good news, but they know the odds are against them.
“It’ll be a detriment for our kids to be on the road so much,” said North Principal Rodney Bass. “The coaches are all very worried about the travel time for kids.”
He noted that simple matters like getting all the students fed will be a problem when they’re leaving school early to play a game at a distant site. Many of North’s students, Bass said, come from families that aren’t blessed with a lot of money. Many, he said, don’t have money to spend on fast-food burgers and the like.
“It’s a domino effect,” Mauldin said. “One problem leads to another.”
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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