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Essie Mae Kiser Foxx School moves forward with new principal, management

EAST SPENCER — After a summer of change, Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School will enter the 2019-20 school year with a new principal and new management services.

Principal James Fisher comes to the school after 20 years in Washington, D.C., public schools as well as time spent in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Rowan-Salisbury school systems. Most recently, he was dean of students at Kannapolis Charter Academy.

Crediting his rich experience in Title 1 schools as an asset, Fisher summed up the school’s vision in one sentence.

“Our vision is to really build and develop competent, efficient, enthusiastic scholars who are ready for 21st-century learning,” he said.

The only way to do so, he said, is to continue serving the students with best practices in instruction and evidenced-based procedures.

And the word scholar is an intentional change in vocabulary for Essie Mae learners.

“The word scholar brings with it the vision of lifelong learners,” said Fisher. “When our students leave here, we hope that they will forever see themselves as such.”

Fisher’s addition to the school’s team is a second recent and large change for the school over Rowan-Salisbury’s uncharacteristically short summer. The school has also recently parted ways with its management company, Torchlight Academy Services.

A recent N.C. Policy Watch article by Greg Childress cited mismanagement of money as the reason for the split, saying the school’s board of directors believed the firm to be responsible for a $50,000 deficit in the end-of-year budget.

But board President Tina Wallace denied that statement, saying the school ended its inaugural year able to meet all day-to-day operational obligations.

The school is still concluding “whether there’s a deficit or not,” she said in a phone interview with the Salisbury Post on Friday.

On Monday, board treasurer Ruby Steele said the school’s board decided on the management shift to further its position as a community school.

Torchlight is an organization based outside Rowan County, Steele said, and board members felt like Essie’s School could serve students better by contracting for the services at home rather than going to an outside organization.

Accordingly, said Wallace, the group has already hired “highly qualified staff members” to oversee these efforts, as well as a local organization for human resources.

The ideal of becoming a true community school was part of the difference compared to traditional public education, said Fisher as he prepared for a blue-carpet welcome to 140 students on Wednesday.

“This community, village concept is rooted in having the ability to know our scholars and their families,” he said. “With smaller class sizes, we’re able to truly tailor a child’s learning experience, leading to student growth and academic achievement.”

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