James Kenan School of Engineering saved by court ruling
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 27, 2008 10:34 AM
From staff reports
Wake County Superior Civil Court Judge Ripley Rand Thursday ordered the Duplin County Board of Education to halt is pending closure of the James Kenan School of Engineering at Warsaw and to ensure that it remain intact for the 2008-09 school year as an autonomous school.
"This is great news for our children," said Chris Heath of Warsaw, parent of a student at the school.
The School of Engineering is just one of several ongoing controveries the school board is embroiled in.
A vote earlier this month to consolidate James Kenan High School, North Duplin Jr.-Sr. High School at Calypso and B.F. Grady School near Albertson has raised a firestorm of opposition -- especially in the B.F. Grady and North Duplin communities.
Suporters of all three schools have banded together to fight the consolidation.
The board is also in the midst of a month-long mediation dispute with county commissioners concerning local funding of the schools. Failure to reach a compromise would sent the issue to court.
Thus far $75,000 has been spent on legal fees -- $64,000 by the school board alone.
"We are back in business at the school of engineering," Heath said. "We hope to have it back in place by the time school starts."
The James Kenan School of Engineering is an alternative high school focused on science, technology, engineering and math that exists alongside James Kenan High School.
The school opened last fall as part of an overall plan approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education to improve James Kenan High School.
Despite the school's apparent success, the school board voted last May to close the school after only its first year of operation.
Parents and supporters have maintained a regular presence at school board and county commissioners' meetings since the closure, touting the school as a success that could serve as a model for other schools.
Parents of several students at the school filed suit last week to keep the school open. The parents claim that the school was created to ensure that students were receiving their constitutional right to a sound education and cannot arbitrarily be closed.
"The students and the parents at the James Kenan School of Engineering all loved the school, and we can't understand why they (school board) chose to close it," Heath said. "All we want is for the school to remain open and for all students who attend the main high school an opportunity to attend the stem school, if they want to. The school works."
Rand issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Duplin County Board of Education to comply with the plan enacted and approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education to improve low-performing high schools.
In so doing, Rand concluded that the decision to close the school violated the plan approved by the State Board of Education and failed to comply with all the statutory requirements imposed upon the Duplin County Board of Education involving any decision to close a school.
"We hope this decision by the court, along with the facts raised in the complaint, will result in further discussions by the Duplin County Board of Education regarding the decision to close the school. If the school board votes to voluntarily keep the school open, then this lawsuit will be dismissed," said Douglas Hanna, the attorney representing the parents in this case.
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