A ramped-up academics, teacher bonuses, potential for a full band program and a safer environment are some of the changes coming to Goldsboro High School, officials said Wednesday.
Wayne County Public Schools administrators, residents and community leaders learned about the improvements during a meeting organized by Operation Unite Goldsboro, a grassroots organization working to improve the community.
Goldsboro High has more recently come under criticism as a troubled school with frequent substitutes and lacking in vocational training and texbooks.
Even though the meeting started with an update on countywide school programs and facility improvements, discussions focused primarily on Goldsboro High.
Tamara Ishee, WCPS assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the school will crack down on fighting in the coming year.
"Two people fighting disrupts the entire school for half a day or more," Ishee said. "It can't happen. So, from the get-go, fighting is going to be addressed in a big way with suspensions."
Suspensions raised concern from several people, including resident Keith Copeland, who suggested that students be taught ways to avoid conflicts.
"Most people, if they get hit, they're going to hit back," Copeland said.
Tracie Holden, chairwoman of the school's advisory council, said fights can happen at any school, and Goldsboro High incidents are by a select number of certain students.
The goal is to have a safe, learning environment, and the school plans to implement prevention strategies for teachers and trained mediation solutions, Ishee said.
"It is imperative that we have a safe environment for every single student because the vast majority of our students are very well behaved and are very interested in learning," said Marcia Manning, GHS interim principal. "They want to learn, they want to get their education.
"They're frustrated sitting in classes where disruptions happen. They want teachers to care about them. They got angry last year when they had substitutes day after day, instead of having teachers in their classroom."
An advisory program matching students to teachers and parent conferences are planned.
When the school opens in August, Manning expects to have the teaching staff at full capacity, with all English and math teaching posts filled and extra math and physical education teachers to reduce class sizes.
Teacher bonuses were approved by the Wayne County Board of Education Monday and include sign-on, returning and performance bonuses at the school, Manning said.
"They can earn additional bonuses at Goldsboro High School," Manning said.
A return of vocational programs, the potential of hiring a full-time band director and new honor-level and advanced placement courses will be offered, Manning said. The school is also adding new classes in the coming year, including anatomy and physiology, physics and journalism, she said.
The return of vocational training is an idea Ishee came up with after listening to concerns during a June community police roundtable, also hosted by Operation Unite Goldsboro.
"I think we've figured out a way to bring it in during the second semester," Ishee said.
The school's lack of a strong band program could also change this year, as administrators are pushing toward hiring a licensed band director, said Kim Copeland, WCPS director of visual and performing arts.
"It's our goal to find a highly qualified band director," Copeland said.
The band program during the previous school year relied on a substitute band director. Administrators are currently considering a candidate for the post, she said.
Goldsboro High is also stocked with band instruments after bringing in instruments from a county middle school where they weren't being used.
Recently, Copeland and other school leaders traveled to Raleigh and purchased $55,000 worth of band instruments for $7,000 from a military surplus warehouse. Instruments will be shared throughout the school system, which will also benefit Goldsboro High, she said.
The changes at the school are an effort to improve the overall educational experience for students, Manning said.
"We're making a real concerted effort to put the student's education first, to put a safe school environment in place," Manning said. "We want every single student to have a school where they have a school where they want to be.
"So that Cougar pride that you talk about and the community talks about, about the school where you attended that you just love, that's what we want today's students to feel, too."
Superintendent Michael Dunsmore, Mayor Chuck Allen and several county Board of Education members were also at the meeting, including Patricia Burden, Richard Pridgen and Raymond Smith Jr.
Operation Unite Goldsboro plans to have another meeting with school leaders in three months, as the grassroots organization works to improve education as part of its larger community effort.