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First day of classes for the Innovative School District’s inaugural school

The following is a press release from the Innovative School District

Like many other public schools across the state, Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Rowland, NC, started classes on Monday. What makes Southside different from the other schools is that it is part of a new statewide district, the Innovative School District (ISD), created through legislation in 2016 to create innovative conditions that accelerate student growth and achievement in low-performing schools, and it is operated by a non-profit entity, Achievement for All Children (AAC). Other differences include an 8:00 am to 4:00 pm school day, school uniforms and an emphasis on community engagement.

When the bell rang to start the new academic year, the school was fully staffed with a team of qualified educators (K-5, Exceptional Children/EC; physical education, music, art), an instructional coach, instructional assistants, a school counselor, an office manager, and a new school director, Bruce Major, who has a successful history of improving student performance. Additional school resources are being provided through grants, including a School Resource Officer (SRO), a school nurse, and an after-school program in partnership with the Robeson County Parks and Recreation Department.

Prior to being transferred into the ISD Southside Ashpole was identified as having a history of low performance. The ISD, in partnership with ACC and the local community, is charged with turning around student performance at the school.

Dr. Eric Hall, founding Superintendent of the ISD and new Deputy State Superintendent of Innovation at the NC Department of Public Instruction, extends his thanks to “AAC, the local community, and the ISD team for their tireless efforts and support of this new school model at Southside Ashpole Elementary.  I am so encouraged by what I see going on at the school under Mr. Major’s leadership. He’s created a positive and encouraging environment that will benefit students, staff and the local community.”

“I am very confident that we can dramatically improve student performance at Southside Ashpole Elementary. With the tremendous staff we’ve assembled, we will ensure success by effectively applying our curriculum, implementing consistent processes and upholding accountability in all areas. I am not saying it will be easy—it won’t be—but with our committed staff and continued engagement and support from the local community, we will succeed,” commented Bruce Major.


Southside Ashpole Elementary

The school is located in the small rural community of Rowland, NC near the South Carolina border. Rowland, known as the “town of a thousand friends”, is surrounded by rich farmland on the southern coastal plain of Robeson County, NC at the intersection of several major highways, including I-95. Wrightsville Beach, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC are only 90 minutes from Rowland, and several universities and community colleges are just a short drive away, including UNC Pembroke, Fayetteville State University, Robeson Community College and Sandhills Community College.

About the NC Innovative School District

Created in 2016, the North Carolina Innovative School District (NCISD) will partner with local communities to design and implement strategies for school improvement, creating innovative conditions and accelerating student achievement. The NCISD is led by Eric Hall, District Superintendent. For more information, visit


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.