As a pre-emptive move before the state board of education makes its decision today about the status of Carver Heights Elementary School, Wayne County Public Schools announced the hiring of two new administrators and transferred principal Cortrina Smith to another role.
District leadership has spent the past few weeks lobbying against efforts proposed by the state Innovative School District to take over the low-performing school or face closure. At a meeting Tuesday, the school board voted to submit an application to maintain ownership of the school and begin turnaround efforts similar to those done at Goldsboro High School, in the form of the Restart Model.
Word of the principal’s transfer was sandwiched near the bottom of a statement sent out Tuesday night, referencing the Restart Model application and a resolution the school board approved earlier in the day. It follows a succession of closed-door meetings in recent weeks.
The school board has had three meetings in the last two weeks — two called special sessions and the regular monthly meeting — featuring personnel matters at each. No discussion was ever held in open forum during any of the meetings to announce that administrative changes at the school were afoot.
At the called meeting on Oct. 18, six of the seven board members attended. Arnold Flowers was absent and Raymond Smith — Cortrina Smith’s husband — did not return when the board emerged 90 minutes later.
The open session lasted less than five minutes, as the remaining members approved the personnel report. The News-Argus was not provided with a copy of the report.
A similar vote was taken during the regular meeting on Oct. 22, with a personnel report released to the media. It contained no mention of any administrative changes or hires to Carver Heights and when put to a vote, Smith recused himself and did not vote.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the agenda included discussion of the Restart Model application for Carver Heights Elementary and personnel matters. Flowers was again absent.
The board went into closed session, returning nearly two hours later. The open session wrapped up in less than 30 minutes, resulting in consensus that the board will pursue the Restart Model for Carver Heights and adopting a resolution to that end.
The only other action taken was a blanket approval of the general personnel report. There was no discussion, Smith again recused himself before the vote. Board member Len Henderson had the only dissenting vote.
Later Tuesday evening, Ken Derksen, WCPS public information officer, sent out a press release announcing the district plans to move forward with turnaround efforts, along with the hire of two new administrators at the helm at CHE.
It also said that a meeting was held with Carver Heights staff on Tuesday afternoon to inform them of the changes being made and the affects on the school moving forward.
Dr. Patrice Faison will be the new principal at the school, effective Nov. 5, replacing Cortrina Smith, principal there since 2016.
Smith will take on a new role as facilitator of career and college promise and multimedia resources at the WCPS central administrative office.
Her only comment was made through the district release, expressing the hope that staff and families at the school will support her decision to accept the new position and efforts by the district for the Restart turnaround efforts.
“Over the past two years, I have been blessed to have been able to work with a great staff and amazing students,” she said in the release. “However, I believe it is in the best interest of the school if I gracefully step aside in order for the district to take the next steps in school Restart.
“I believe in Carver Heights and the success that I know our students and our staff can attain.”
Faison has more than 22 years experience in the state education system. Her career began in Stokesdale in 1995, transitioning from the classroom in 2006 to become middle college liaison at N.C. A&T University. The following year, she became a high school assistant principal in Jamestown and less than a year after later, she took over as principal at the Academy at Smith High School in Greensboro.
She became the principal of Oak Hill Elementary School in High Point in 2010. Two years later, she was named the state’s principal of the year for her school’s turnaround success.
From 2012-2017 she was principal at Guilford County Schools’ second largest high school, Page High, which had about 2,000 students. During her leadership, the school exceeded expected student growth.
In 2018, she was named superintendent of Thomasville City Schools.
WCPS superintendent Dr. Michael Dunsmore praised the new acquisition.
“(She) has time and time again served in an administrative role to increase student success at struggling schools,” he said. “It is worth noting that Dr. Faison was named the 2012-2013 North Carolina Principal of the Year for her school turnaround success in Guildford County.”
The school board also approved Dr. Terri Cobb coming on board as the new school improvement grant coordinator at Carver Heights.
She has 40 years of experience in public education, beginning as a teacher with Wilson County Schools in 1978. Over the next 17 years, she served as school counselor, assistant principal and principal in that district. She is credited with increasing student achievement at all schools in that district.
She was recruited by Pitt County Schools in 1995, serving as K-5 program director and principal of South Greenville Elementary.
She was hired by Wake County Schools in 1999, first as principal of Lockhart Elementary School, leading the school to be ranked among the Top 25 Most Improved Schools in North Carolina and named the national Title I school for sustained growth. She held several roles in that district, including chief of staff before being named superintendent of Pender County Schools in 2012. During her stint there, the school system exceeded the state and region in student performance and was listed among the top tier districts for student achievement in 2017.
She retired as superintendent in 2017 and currently serves as a teaching assistant professor at East Carolina University.
WCPS will host a meet and greet to introduce the school’s new leadership to the public on Thursday from 6 until 7:30 p.m. in the Carver Heights gymnasium.
Faison will speak briefly about her vision and plans for the school, officials said.
Dunsmore, meanwhile, along with a contingent from Wayne County, are heading to Raleigh this morning to attend the state board of education meeting and witness a vote to determine the imminent future of the school.