03/05/06 — Goldsboro High one of 19 schools threatened with closure

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Goldsboro High one of 19 schools threatened with closure

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 5, 2006 2:15 AM

From staff and wire reports

Goldsboro High School is one of 19 high schools in the state that could be closed in the fall unless they show improvement, said a state judge overseeing a long-running court case on school quality.

Judge Howard Manning Jr. sent a letter Friday to state school Superintendent June Atkinson and state Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee, saying the schools must show improvement or shut their doors.

Manning told Atkinson and Lee to make sweeping changes, including replacing principals.

"Superintendents and principals have run out of room and run out of time," Manning said in the 17-page letter. "The state is clearly and ultimately legally responsible."

Manning has warned state leaders for about two years that dozens of high schools fall short of a state constitutional requirement that all students receive adequate educational opportunities.

In his letter Friday, he blamed the low performance on poor leadership from principals, not a lack of financial support.

"The major problem with these schools lies within the category of school leadership, not money," he wrote.

Manning's order said principals would be replaced at schools where passing rates on state tests remained at 55 percent or less in all of the past five years, including the 2005-06 year.

Those schools also would be required to begin reform plans modeled after the small-school approach promoted by the state's New Schools Project.

Officials with the Wayne County Public Schools said Saturday they had not received any information from the Department of Public Instruction about Manning's letter.

In response , they defended Goldsboro High for its progress under both state and federal accountability programs.

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for testing and accountability, said Goldsboro High has made dramatic academic progress over the past several years.

"The state's ABC performance standard, the percentage of scores at and above proficiency, has increased at Goldsboro High School from 30.2 percent in 1998-99 to 53.5 percent last year. The state has rewarded the principal and the staff at the school for meeting or exceeding growth expectations for six of the last eight school years. Goldsboro High School also met 12 of their 13 target goals under the federal No Child Left Behind program," he said.

Wayne Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said Goldsboro High has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

"There are always numerous variables that affect student achievement. Goldsboro High School serves a community with various socio-economic factors which present challenges to the school staff," he said.

Taylor also defended the school's principal, Patricia Burden.

"For the past six years, Goldsboro High School has been lead by a highly competent and capable principal," he said. "Under Pat Burden's leadership the school has experienced improved and steady progress over time and the staff is dedicated to continuing improved achievement. In fact, due to the efforts of the principal, staff and students, the percentage of proficient test scores at the school has increased by 20 percent in just a few years. Obviously, we are not yet where we want to be, but we are pleased with this progress."

Manning took over the school quality case in 2002, when he ruled in the Leandro school funding lawsuit. That ruling established the basics of a sound education, which include competent, well-trained teachers, effective principals and sufficient resources.

Advocates for poor school districts applauded his decision.

"The state can't be serious about fixing schools if they can't do what the judge is saying," said Gerry Hancock, a lobbyist for a group representing poor districts. "You would assume that the powers that be would swing into action and avert any crisis in the fall. If that doesn't happen, the state has a very serious problem."