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Citing HB2, national group pulls out of meeting planned at Rowan-Salisbury Schools

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A national convention that was scheduled to be held in Rowan-Salisbury Schools has been canceled, with organizers citing House Bill 2, the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.”

Local schools spent months preparing for a visit from the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, a coalition of 86 school districts nationwide, including Rowan-Salisbury. Representatives of superintendents in the league were supposed to visit in early April to attend a biannual meeting and to see a showcase of student and teacher work.

“Our folks have put a lot of time and energy into preparing this,” RSS Superintendent Lynn Moody said.

Last week, Moody received an email saying the league representatives would not attend. The email cited HB2, which mandates that people must use the restroom that corresponds to the gender listed on their birth certificate.

About 24 of the league’s 86 school systems are barred from traveling to North Carolina by their state legislatures because of the bill. Moody said she believes most of those 24 districts are in California, Connecticut and Maine.

Moody said she is disappointed but not “totally shocked.” She and league organizers had been emailing back and forth, and organizers asked if the bill would be repealed before April. Before they sent the final notice, organizers asked again, and Moody said she put in a call to state representatives. She was told the bill would not be repealed by April.

“We had no idea how big the issue was,” she said.

But Moody said she understands the decision.

“I would never want to put another superintendent in that ethical dilemma,” she said.

While the district benefits from its membership in the league, Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education Chairman Josh Wagner said, he called the league’s decision “arbitrary” and based more on politics than morals. He said his biggest concern is the effect the decision will have on students, teachers and the local school system.

“I think it hurts teachers and hurts students, and I think it delegitimizes the League of Innovation, quite frankly,” he said.

Wagner said the issue could have been handled outside the political ring.

“A political issue should not be used to hold a school system hostage,” Wagner wrote in an email. “This is particularly important when you consider the fact that our system locally had nothing to do with HB2. I certainly hope that in the future we can continue to participate in digital league functions. However, we will continue to move forward and accomplish things whether the league participates in North Carolina or not. N.C. has much to offer. Those who refuse to come here only hurt themselves.”

The league is relocating its biannual meeting to Cleveland. Meanwhile, Rowan students, teachers and staff have projects to display and information to share. So the Rowan-Salisbury system will hold its own showcase.

“We just decided to try to make lemonade out of lemons,” Moody said.

Scheduled for April 6, the event will ferry visitors across the county to see some of the district’s crowning jewels. According to a brochure, those attending the showcase — dubbed “Experience the Power of a New Public Education” — will visit South Rowan High School to learn about guided instruction and blended learning and West Rowan High School to hear about PowerU, an hour a day where students can eat lunch and participate in clubs, study or get tutoring. Visitors also will be served a farm-to-table lunch prepared by West Rowan High’s agricultural academy students. Other activities include a trip to Horizons Unlimited, a discussion with local high school students and a play by Carson High School arts academy students.

Discovery Education is sponsoring the event, which will have an optional second day on April 7. District staff have reached out to local and state business leaders, elected leaders, school districts, and colleges and universities. The first 151 people to sign up will have all registration fees waived.

Moody said that part of the decision is to show local and state officials the work being done in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. The district has received national recognition for its move to and use of one-to-one technology.

“When people talk about education, we have a very different model, and we’re very proud of it,” Moody said.

Staff and students are “very encouraged and excited about sharing our work” in April, she said.

Those interested in registering can visit tinyurl.com/rsspowerpe for more information.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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