07/11/11 — Former students, officals lament Governor's School cut

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Former students, officals lament Governor's School cut

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 11, 2011 1:46 PM

As state school superintendent June Atkinson recommends that funding for the N.C. Governor's School be cut at next month's state Board of Education meeting, past local students are weighing in on merits of the program.

Since its introduction, funding for student attendance has been paid by the state. Were students to pay their own way, tuition would be approximately $2,100 each.

Last year, state cuts required students to pay $500 each. Wayne County Public Schools picked up the tab for the two students attending through its exceptional children's department budget.

The number of students representing Wayne County each summer has varied each year, with as many as 10 students being chosen for the six-week summer enrichment program. There are currently eight area students among the 600 juniors and seniors attending the program, which is split between locations in Raleigh and Winston-Salem.

Founded in 1963 by former Gov. Terry Sanford, Governor's School is the oldest statewide summer residential program for academically and intellectually gifted high school students in the nation.

Kelly Best, valedictorian of her graduating class at Rosewood High School this year, was chosen to attend the program last summer in Winston-Salem.

She said she understands the rationale related to budget cuts, but believes it would be a "shame" to eliminate the program that made such a difference in her life.

"I came from a small school and I was there with people who were at schools with 2,000 people," she said. "Our school doesn't have an orchestra, (theirs may) have a band. I was exposed to different types of music and different schools of thought."

She also encountered different cultures, religions and world views she might not have otherwise, she said. In turn, the opportunity allowed her to enter her senior year more confident and aware of what she wanted to do in life.

"I think some of what I was exposed to at Governor's School helped me to stand out (in college applications and interviews) because I had been exposed to so much," she said. "It helped me to apply for different scholarships. It helped give me an edge whenever I was competing among students from bigger schools and bigger places."

Living on a college campus for six weeks will now make her own transition there in the fall -- to Campbell University on a full scholarship -- much easier.

"All of my friends are nervous about going off to college and I'm not because I have had that," she said. "It would be a shame to see people not have the opportunity to go (to Governor's School)."

Kylie Glisson attended Governor's School at Meredith College in Raleigh in 2009.

"Overall, it was an amazing experience," she recalls. "I got to meet people from all over the state. I have friends that otherwise I wouldn't have made."

The best part, she said, was how it prepared her for college. Then a rising senior at Rosewood, she is now a student at N.C. State University majoring in animal science.

"I really enjoyed it," she said. "The people are great, the experience is great, and the best part is, it was free. They didn't discriminate if you couldn't afford it.

"I think it developed me and helped mature me and get (me) ready for senior year."

State legislators, however, say the program is simply a victim of tough budget decisions.

"It was a hard choice to make. We had to shore up education to the best of our abilities where it's absolutely actually needed," Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, said. "It wasn't something anybody wanted to do, but it's one of those areas that could be cut and not really affect the overall education system that much."

Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, however, said that it's possible that funding for the program could be put back in place during next year's short legislative session. He also said that the cut was one that the state Department of Education didn't have to make -- that it wasn't a line item cut made by the Legislature, but rather a program that fell under the board's discretionary spending.

"I think perhaps DPI might have been a little bit premature making that cut right now. We didn't specifically line them out, I don't believe," he said. "I think it's been a fairly successful program. I think next year we'll have a chance to look at that again."

Stephen Clingan, principal at Spring Creek High School, currently has three students at Governor's School, and says he has witnessed growth in students who return with much to share about the experience and hopes the state will reconsider.

"Any extracurricular program or training that they can get that's such a high quality as Governor's School, it certainly would be a detriment to the students of our state (if it's discontinued)," he said. "It's highly competitive, it's an enrichment experience.

"When you hear kids a lot of times say when they come back from Governor's School, the connections that they make is an experience, priceless almost."

From the diversity of ideas to meeting their counterparts from other communities, Clingan said it is a great opportunity for students.

"They meet kids across the entire state -- Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Asheville -- this is what their goals are, this is what they're doing," he said. "It opens their eyes to an expansive world. Without that, it certainly would be a detriment as far as I'm concerned.

"The experience that they had, the networking, kids come back and you can tell that they have really grown from it."