A group of about 50 educators, parents and community members met Tuesday evening in the media center of C.B. Martin Middle School Tuesday evening to discuss the proposed “global school” – Martin Millennium Academy.
The K-8 global school will place teachers from different countries at each grade level while offering full immersion Spanish instruction to students beginning in kindergarten. Edgecombe County Public Schools plans to partner with VIF International Education to open the school.
Superintendent John Farrelly told the crowd the idea for the global school stemmed from a conversation about innovation more than a year ago. After that conversation, the district started looking at “global schools” in Cumberland County with student demographics similar to Edgecombe County.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Farrelly showed a video of students in a language immersion program.
“I was impressed. It makes me want to go back,” Linda Knight said. “Those children were energetic, they were enthused. All the children were engaged.”
Knight is the owner at Think and Grow Daycare Center in Tarboro, where pre-K children learn the basics of the Spanish language.
“The younger you start, the better the child will be able to master it,” Knight said. “At that age, they’re sponges and they’ll be able to grasp everything you say.”
ECPS students’ longstanding low academic performance factored into the decision to make a change in the school district, with the goal of increasing student engagement and academic rigor. The ultimate decision to make the change and open Martin Millennium Academy lies with the community, not the superintendent or the board of education.
“The community makes the decision about whether they’re going to make the choice or not,” Farrelly said.
“The support thus far has been overwhelmingly positive,” he added.
Martin Middle Principal Bernadine Lewis said many parents have expressed interested in the global school and she, for one, is excited about it.
“It’s something innovative, it’s something new,” Lewis said. “You’re giving them (students) those tools they need to compete with students from other countries. I think it’s something we need in Edgecombe County.”
Lewis said Farrelly would “have the numbers” of student applications to open the new school, and Farrelly said there is the potential to hold a lottery to determine which students will be accepted, depending on the number of applications the district receives.
Martin Millennium will be a “choice school,” meaning every child in the district will have the option to apply to attend the school.
“One thousand students have left the school system in the past five years, so a lot of people are looking for choices,” Farrelly said.
That exodus of students has given ECPS additional space at Stocks Elementary, Pattillo School and Martin Middle to open the new school and make the necessary changes of converting Stocks to a K-5 school, Pattillo to a 6-8 school and Martin to a K-8 school.
The proposed “floor plan” for Martin Millennium Academy calls for K-5 instruction downstairs, with grades 6-8 instruction upstairs.
After going through the transformation from C.B. Martin Middle to Martin Millennium Academy, the school will have a new sign out front, flags from different countries will be displayed along the school sidewalks to reflect the global theme, and the inside of the building will be repainted.
Farrelly also discussed his timeline for Martin Millennium Academy, with a target of hiring the principal in March and opening the school in August. The principal position will be advertised to the public as an open position. Once hired, Farrelly said the principal would have a “heavy say” in the hiring of his or her staff.
Farrelly ended his presentation by fielding meeting attendees’ questions about everything from uniforms to bathroom reconfiguration to transportation.
He said whether or not the students will wear uniforms has yet to be determined, but administration would follow the district policy as it relates to uniforms. Although the bathrooms are Martin are currently designed for middle school students, Farrelly said reconfiguring them to accommodate elementary school students will only require changing the fixtures.
The district will transport all students from the community to Martin Millennium Academy, Farrelly said, but the details of the bus route will be determined at a later date.
Tuesday’s meeting is the last of a series of community meetings on the “global schools” topic before the holidays. A previous meeting was held Dec. 12 at Stocks Elementary, with an attendance of more than 250 people.
Additional meetings are planned for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at Carver Elementary School and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at Coker-Wimberly.