Wayne County Board of Education

Wayne County Board of Education Chairman Chris West, left; Michael Dunsmore, Wayne County Schools superintendent; and board member Patricia Burden review the Restart application Wednesday for Carver Heights Elementary School.

The Wayne County Board of Education made revisions to its Restart Model application for Carver Heights Elementary School late Wednesday.

At a special called meeting, the board unanimously approved the updated version of the application, yet another turn of events in the district’s efforts to retain control of the low-performing school.

The school system had been granted a potential reprieve mid-December when the General Assembly introduced legislation that included provisions specific to Carver Heights.

The Senate and House approved the revised version of the Technical Corrections Act, Senate Bill 469, which in part allowed the local school board to apply to the state board of education to pursue a Restart Model for the operation of the school. The bill was then sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for approval.

The district learned just before the holiday break that the governor vetoed the bill on Dec. 21.

Lawmakers went back into session over the break, overriding the veto on Dec. 27.

“N.C. DPI (Department of Public Instruction) changed the template for the Restart application,” Ken Derksen, public information officer for Wayne County Public Schools, explained while the board was in closed session on Wednesday.

He said school officials were moving to amend the application to align with the new template.

The district had originally submitted the application to the state Oct. 30, Derksen added.

“DPI asked us to update our Restart application,” superintendent Michael Dunsmore said when the open session resumed. “We did want to get that in front of the board and get your approval before we turn that in first thing (Thursday) morning so we can get it on the state board agenda for next Wednesday.”

Dunsmore commended his leadership team and staff for working diligently over the holidays to make the needed changes.

Tamara Ishee, assistant superintendent, said her staff was making changes and tweaks up until the meeting began.

One of the programmatic differences in the update, she said, is an extension of the student school day by 30 minutes, which goes into effect on Monday. Students will arrive 15 minutes earlier and stay 15 minutes later in the afternoon, she said.

Also starting Monday, there will be 45 minutes of additional instructional time worked into the school day.

Chairman Chris West asked if parents will receive ample notice to make any needed adjustments.

“They’ve been talking about it for a while before Christmas break,” Ishee said. “It’s really on our end scrambling to make sure the transportation works.”

According to the DPI Restart school application, this school year is considered a planning year for the implementation of the Restart Model. The 2019-20 school year will be the first year of implementation, Ishee said.

Board member Rick Pridgen made the motion to accept the updated Restart school application and to submit it to the state board of education.

Board member Patricia Burden seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved by the seven-member board.

This marks just one more wrinkle since the state’s accountability scores, released in September, left Carver Heights Elementary on the short list of schools qualifying to become part of the N.C. Innovative School District, where the state assumes control and appoints a superintendent to oversee and select an operator to run the school.

WCPS was notified mid-October that the state board recommended the transfer of the school into the hands of the Innovative School District, effective as early as the 2019-20 school year.

The district had until Feb. 1 to make its decision — to either turn over the reins to the ISD or vote to close it and absorb the students within other schools.

Dunsmore and the school board, along with the backing of parents and community members, remained resolute in efforts to retain ownership of the school. In early December, the state school board unanimously approved the ISD superintendent’s recommendation to transfer Carver Heights Elementary into the ISD and added language that the board “direct the ISD to engage the local Wayne County board, families, students, educators and the community in shared decision-making power through state, school and district governance, as well as other accountability structures.”