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Beard apologizes for comments

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
Bryce Beard, who represents the Salisbury district on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, wrote e-mails apologizing to fellow board member Patty Williams and all of the school system’s principals and staff.
In his Nov. 27 e-mail to Williams, the South area representative on the board, Beard said “I honestly think this is a misunderstanding. For my part, I hope we can put this behind us.”
Beard said he didn’t mean that Salisbury High School does the best job … “period” and that “nobody else does as good.”
“The ABC scores indicated to me that the school was doing a better job than others at ‘closing the gap,’ ” he said. “Closing the gap is an obvious priority for a school that has Salisbury High School’s demographic makeup. What else can you say … the numbers support this.”
If he had a chance at a “do-over,” Beard said he would not have brought up the matter at the Nov. 23 meeting.
“But Patty, if you sit in meetings where people attack your school and claim unfairness, etc.,” he said, “especially when they don’t know the whole story, and keep repeating their biases, shouldn’t you try to set the record straight?
“I saw it as my responsibility. Unfortunately I didn’t read from a prepared statement. I just spoke. I won’t do that again. If you still think that I offended you or your school or anybody else’s, I apologize.”
In e-mails to Rowan-Salisbury principals and staff, Beard said the open and frank discussion at the board’s Nov. 23 meeting had evoked many emotional comments from different board members. “I felt it was time I tried to explain the reasoning behind the committee’s decision to exempt the Salisbury district from any student reassignment,” he said, “if such a plan was to be adopted.”
The most compelling reason, Bryce said, is the school board’s decision to move 100 at-risk students from the North district to Salisbury High in 2006, which had not been part of any published or even discussed plan prior to its passage.
“Under the 2002 redistricting plan that accompanied the bond,” he said, “these same neighborhoods were identified as going to East Rowan High. The 2002 board of education passed this plan by a 6- 1 vote (East dissenting). The plan then was for these inner-city neighborhoods along with other Salisbury city neighborhoods on the other side of I-85, including Morlan Park, to go to East Rowan High School as part of the overall comprehensive student assignment plan presented to the voters of Rowan County prior to the successful 2002 bond referendum.
“The point I was trying to make was that the ‘stated reason’ the students were later moved to Salisbury High instead of East Rowan High School was because they were living in the city of Salisbury and the plan was called ‘Keeping Communities Together.’ ”
Beard said the present board also believes that dividing communities is not the best idea and should only happen as a last resort. By accepting the 2006 student reassignment plan, he said Salisbury High had already helped with the situation at North Rowan High School.
In addition, he said he pointed out that Salisbury lost its Choice Zone of the SEMS overlay due to this redistricting.
“By 2005 there were over 125 students at Salisbury High School by way of the choice option they were granted by the Redistricting Committee in 2001 when Salisbury High’s attendance numbers were in the 700s. Don’t you remember that 10 years ago there was talk about closing Salisbury High?”
Consequently, Beard said, as the North population has fed into Salisbury High and the Choice students graduated, the at-risk population at Salisbury has grown to more than 65 percent ó the highest in the county.
“When this ‘change of course’ became a reality in 2006,” he continued, “there was no official complaint from Salisbury High School or staff, though they knew full well what added challenges they would be facing.”
In recognizing the school and Principal Dr. Windsor Eagle at the Nov. 23 board meeting “for having succeeded while dealing with this difficult change,” Beard said, “I may have unintentionally offended some of you.
“It was ‘pointed out to me’ by Mrs. Patty Williams that I had said things that might make it appear that I felt others weren’t doing a good job. If I expressed myself in such a way, then I misspoke, and I apologize to each of you.
“I simply meant to say that Dr. Eagle and his staff have done a great job of dealing with the needs of running such a diverse and predominately at-risk school. I was trying to reference the ABC numbers of the ‘black subgroups.’ When I said he was doing the best job, it was only me referring to that subgroup.
“I do believe that, with 28 years experience as Salisbury High School principal, this North High graduate has proven once again to be a very valuable asset to Rowan-Salisbury School System.”
Addressing principals specifically, Beard said he recognized that they have a tough, challenging job and that “each of you are successful in your own right.”
“The fact that, last year, we saw no principals leave our system, or retire, stands as evidence that each of you are committed to the schools where you serve as the instructional leaders. You are a credit to our school system as you face the different difficult challenges at your school. Your school’s challenges are often unique to your school. The Salisbury High population is certainly unique. Additionally, I apologize to Dr. Eagle for any embarrassment my comments may have caused him and his staff.”
Beard ended his e-mail by addressing the school system’s teachers, who he described as “the most important pieces of the education system ó the people in the trenches.”
He pointed out that his wife is a 30-year veteran of the classroom who, at the time of merger, was teaching and coaching at West High. “I myself subbed in classrooms for over 100 days in the mid-1990s and have repeatedly said I learned that I couldn’t be a full-time teacher myself; the job is too difficult and demanding.
“I have stated on more than one occasion that teaching is a high calling, where you are held to unbelievable expectations. I admire all teachers for accepting this challenge and my hat’s off to every one of you.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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