The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 8, 2013

Farrelly proposes bringing back alternative school


TARBORO — Alternative education and the Edgecombe County Board of Education’s budget were topics of a board work session Monday evening.

Superintendent John Farrelly proposed bringing the district’s alternative educational program back to Tarboro. The program was relocated to the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) in Rocky Mount after the closure of the Roberson Center for Educational Achievement at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. The alternative education program at the OIC currently serves between 12 and 13 students daily.

“The bottom line is, I feel like we can provide a more quality education if we bring it back to a school setting,” Farrelly said. He proposed relocating the alternative program to an east wing of Tarboro High School, a “school within a school” model that would offer more spacious classrooms and provide more opportunities for direct instruction to students.

“We’ve been somewhat handicapped with the number of students we could serve in the two classrooms in Rocky Mount,” said Farrelly. He envisions a larger number of students being served at the new location – at least 25 or 30.

“I think it sounds good. You’d be centrally located, which is most important,” said Board member William Keith Pittman. Dr. Evelyn Johnson, board member, also voiced her approval of the proposal.

“I think the school within a school’s a great concept,” she said. “Just the idea of attaching it to a regular school, that takes away the stigma that it’s ‘bad.’”

Farrelly agreed, saying that alternative education sometimes carries a negative connotation, when in fact it’s just providing a different learning setting for students better served outside of a traditional classroom.

If the alternative program moves to Farrelly’s proposed Tarboro High School location, the district would hire two exceptional children’s teachers and two teacher assistants for the program. One of the teachers would be designated as the “lead” teacher. Farrelly said he would like to retain the partnership with OIC by holding evening alternative education classes there in the evenings for students who work during the day but have the desire to continue their education. The relocation of the alternative education program will be discussed again at a later date before a final decision is made.

The board at Monday’s meeting also discussed Board Chair Ann Kent’s proposal to divide the board’s travel budget into seven equal increments, one for each board member.

“This is what a lot of the other school boards are doing – taking their budget and dividing it among the number of members,” Kent said. The $22,493 portion of the board’s $233,000 budget not reserved for fixed costs would be divided into seven $3,213 allotments if the board approves Kent’s proposal. Kent brought up the travel budget because the board’s newest member, Olga Dickens, is unable to attend a summer training session because the board has already spent its travel budget for the year.

 “You can’t lead where you haven’t been,” said Board Vice Chair Evelyn Shaw Wilson. “Mrs. Dickens needs to be in training this summer, because this is her first year.”

Johnson stressed the importance of attending training sessions.

“If we’re going to be an operating board in the global society…I think we need to be knowledgeable,” she said, adding the board needed to ask the question, “What can we do to make sure we’re keeping up with everybody?”

Kent said she agrees training is important, but that board members need to “pick and choose” what training they would like to attend in order to be “good stewards of the community’s money.”

The board will vote on the budget measure at its regular meeting next Monday evening.