Carver Heights forum

People sit on the bleachers in the Carver Elementary School gym during a meeting with Innovative School District leaders. Parents, educators and community activists made comments unanimously opposing a proposed state takeover of the school.

There was a consistent theme running through the comments parents, activists and educators made at Carver Heights Elementary Monday evening: we’ll hold on to our school, thank you very much.

Hundreds of people gathered at Carver Heights Monday to give their comments on the proposed state takeover of the school. Those who spoke were unanimous in their opposition to the plan, which would see Carver Heights taken out of Wayne County Public Schools’ jurisdiction and placed under the authority of the state’s Innovative School District.

Francine Smith, with Rebuilding Broken Places in Goldsboro, was one of the first to speak. She broached a question that would become a common refrain throughout the evening.

“Where’s the proof? Where’s the proof that your model, or lack thereof, is going to work in our community?” she asked.

Smith said that Michael Dunsmore, superintendent, and his team have done a good job since coming on board in 2015, and should be allowed to continue working on Carver Heights.

“The leadership has been in place for three years, this leadership. And in that time, they have moved three schools out of low-performing status,” she said.

“Please explain to me why we should trust you, who we don’t know, who have no interest in our kids?”

Others said that the culprit behind Carver Heights’ “F” grade is the same entity that created the system assigning that grade — the General Assembly.

Keith Copeland, with the Goldsboro/Wayne NAACP, said that the ISD is an example of the General Assembly shifting priorities away from public schools.

“The problem is resources, and people in the legislature are taking away our resources and putting them into private schools for profit,” he said.

Alana Moore’s son will enter Carver Heights either this year or next, she said. As both a parent and a former CHE student herself, she felt she had to speak up.

“I wasn’t really going to say anything, but I had to,” she said. “I look around, I saw some of the teachers that I went to school with, that taught me when I went to school, and I’ll tell you right now they aren’t the problem.”

Moore said that she came to school hungry as a student at Carver Heights, and that problems that occur outside of the classroom need to be addressed just as much as those within the school’s walls.

Eric Hall, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s deputy superintendent for innovation, said that, if Carver Heights is selected for takeover, the ISD would work “hand-in-hand” with the community to ensure better academic outcomes for students. He did not, however, say how that might be done.

“There is no silver bullet solution where I can come in and say ‘this is how we’re going to fix it,’” Hall said.

Deborah Copeland is a teacher at Carver Heights. Dressed in a yellow shirt, the same worn by the many other CHE educators in the stands, Copeland said that she was given an award last year for being in top 25 percent of teachers for growth.

“You come out one year and shake my hand and congratulate me on that achievement, but the next year you question my ability to teach and tell me I’ll have to reapply for a job if I’m going to remain here,” she said. “You’re talking about not only our students, but our livelihoods, and that’s a problem.”