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Schools rank among bottom in the state

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

EAST SPENCER — The Rowan-Salisbury School System faces corrective action under the No Child Left Behind federal accountably program. The action is due to the system’s results on the 2005-2006 Adequate Yearly Progress.

According to Alesia Burnette, the system’s director of school improvement, this past school year is the fourth in a row where the system hasn’t made Adequate Yearly Progress and the third year they’ve been placed on district improvement status.

The results put the system among the bottom 11 in the state, Burnette said.

Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said she told principals and other school officials she didn’t expect a top 10 finish, but, “I wasn’t expecting us to be in the bottom 11.”

As one of the bottom 11, the system is in Tier 1 of school improvement. Tier 1 is defined by guided assistance.

The state will assign an assistance team to visit the Rowan-Salisbury schools, send a letter to parents notifying them of the situation, select an appropriate sanction and establish a local leadership team to work with school officials.

Dr. Jim Emerson, a member of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, asked Burnette to explain what “sanction” meant.

Grissom interjected and said she was about to explain the possible sanctions. she read a list of seven possible sanctions:

* Defer program funds or reduce administrative funds.

* Align instruction with and fully implement the N.C. Standard Course of Study including providing appropriate professional development.

* Replace school district personnel. Grissom said the state could replace the superintendent, other school officials and individual teachers and principals that are thought to be hindering progress.

* Remove a school from the system’s jurisdiction and establish an alternative governing agency.

* Restructure the school district.

* Allow students to attend a school in another district with Rowan-Salisbury providing transportation.

Grissom said she got a call to attend a N.C. Board of Education meeting last week and learned that the Department of Public Instruction was going to recommend aligning the curriculum with the N.C. Standard Course of Study as the sanction for Rowan-Salisbury.

While Grissom said this will be the recommendation to the state board, “They could take a harder stance.”

If the school system doesn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, “What frightens me a little … one of those other sanctions will be all that is left,” Grissom said.

She said if the system doesn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, things will get tougher. “Next year the hurdles get higher,” Grissom said.

“If we’re going to get out of the hole that we’ve dug, it’s got to be between now and the end of the school year,” Grissom said. “We’ve done quite a bit in the last few months. Is it enough? No.”

She said, “The bottom line is, the instruction that happens in that classroom.”

“The standard course of study, I’m amazed that would be an issue,” Emerson said.

Grissom said she thought it was individual teachers in some schools who weren’t following the guidelines. She said the state team would come in and do a curriculum audit.

“Can they specifically detect that” (some teachers are not following the standard course of study)? Emerson asked.

“Yes,” Grissom replied.

Board Chairman Bryce Beard said the changes wouldn’t happen overnight. “These are terrific challenges,” he said.

“I really have high expectations,” Grissom said.

She said she was in a unique position. “I don’t have to be here,” Grissom said.

She said she had enough years in education to be retired, but, “I am here because I am passionate about this school system getting better. I honestly believe we can do this.”

Newly installed board member Karen South Carpenter asked if the principals know the severity of the situation. “I think they do now,” Grissom said.

“How are you going to recruit teachers to come to the bottom 11?” asked new board member Patty Williams.

Grissom told Williams that there is a plan in place and Delores Morris, assistant superintendent for human resources, and Rita Foil, public information officer, are working on a marketing plan.

“It’s time we become not a system of schools but a school system,” Grissom said.

Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or hlee@salisburypost.com.

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