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Wayne County Schools pushes back against attempted ISD takeover

In a letter sent to Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and other members of the State Board of Education, Michael Dunsmore, superintendent of Wayne County Schools, and the Wayne County Board of Education expressed their “concern” about the targeting of Carver Heights Elementary by the Innovative School District (ISD). 

Carver Heights has been chosen by ISD leaders to become the second school in the ISD, with an open date of next fall. The State Board of Education was set to vote on that choice this month but chose instead to delay the vote until December. 

The letter states that the school board and Dunsmore are “writing to express our serious concerns and great dismay regarding the recommendation” and goes on to say that the “ISD is without a proven school turnaround record, without a strategic plan to assist our children, and without any accountability to the taxpayers, parents or children of Wayne County.” 

The letter goes on to list 10 specific concerns, including the lack of consistency in the process of choosing Carver Heights for the ISD, the lack of a chance for Wayne County to respond to the ISD’s findings about Carver Heights, and Wayne County’s track record of turning around low-performing schools.

In a separate press release from Wayne County Schools, the district announced the arrival of Patrice Faison to Carver Heights Elementary to lead its school improvement. The release describes her as a 22-year veteran educator, a former North Carolina Principal of the Year, and “an experienced school turnaround leader.” 

The Achievement School District (ASD) bill was passed during the 2016 General Assembly short session. At the heart of the legislation is the creation of a district which will eventually include five low-performing schools from around the state. The schools could be turned over to for-profit charter management organizations. 

The legislation establishing the ASD also gave districts that participate the opportunity to pick up to three other low-performing schools in their districts to join an innovation zone. Schools in this zone would have charter-like flexibility but would continue to be managed by the school district. Further tweaks to the program by the General Assembly changed its name to the North Carolina Innovative School District and added a provision that if a district participating in the ISD has more than 35 percent of its schools identified as low-performing, then all of those schools could become part of an innovation zone should the district elect that option. 

Last year, Robeson County’s Southside Ashpole Elementary was picked to be the first school in the ISD. It started in the new district this fall under the operation of a non-profit charter management organization, Charlotte-based Achievement for All Children

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.