Carver Heights Elementary Fights ISD Selection, State Board Looks at Compromise
Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs and Policy Manager
Since the selection of Carver Heights Elementary School for state takeover by the Innovative School District (ISD), the NC State Board of Education has been met with fierce opposition from educators, students, and parents in Wayne County Public Schools.
State legislators created the ISD program in 2016, through which the State Board of Education is required to select a low-performing school to transfer from its traditional school district into the ISD. The program is seen as controversial by many education groups, as it involuntarily transfers management of certain low-performing schools to outside groups, including third party, for-profit entities. Several members of the State Board have spoken out against the ISD school selection process, stating the timeline created by ISD legislation does not provide enough opportunity to adequately communicate with effected school communities.
The list of schools which qualified for inclusion in ISD, including those under consideration for selection, was introduced to the State Board at its monthly meeting in September. The next month, the State Board was provided with an update on interactions with ISD qualifying schools, and local school districts were presented with notice of the ISD’s intent to select Carver Heights Elementary on the October 15 deadline. The Board scheduled a vote to approve Carver Heights for ISD selection at its monthly meeting in November, but Board members elected to delay the vote until December after receiving intense pushback from Wayne County educators, including Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Dunsmore.
In December, the State Board finally approved Carver Heights as its official selection for ISD, while also recognizing valid community concerns. Board members also noted that legislators had proposed a technical corrections bill that would allow local boards of education to assume the role of innovative school operator, thus relieving some of the community’s concerns about handing off Carver Heights to an unknown third party. This provision was met with legislative opposition, however, and the option was later removed in a subsequent conference committee substitute.
According to language in the recently passed committee substitute, the Wayne County Board of Education may now apply to the State Board to adopt a restart model operation for Carver Heights Elementary. The committee substitute also removes the requirement that the State Board select at least two qualifying schools to transfer to the ISD before the 2019-2020 school year. This new legislation may be viewed as a compromise between the State Board’s statutory requirements regarding ISD and the concerns of communities impacted by ISD takeovers.