Judge’s ruling could spell big trouble for NERSBA

Jun 12, 2019 at 07:00 am by Mary-RB


It’s difficult to argue with success, especially when accomplishments are easy to identify because somebody else has done most of the work.

But, some people will try, especially if money is involved.

And, some people will even win.

Such is the case that went before Judge Cy Grant on Monday, June 10, between the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience and the Beaufort County Board of Education.

Before I continue, I should admit that I love NERSBA. Principal Hal Davis’ open, honest attitude fosters my trust. His friendly demeanor and firm handshake make visits pleasurable instead of yet another exercise in futility.

Besides that, I just cannot argue with proficiency numbers garnered from the state. At the top is Polk County with 76.1 percent of students working at or above grade level. Next is the frequent top district, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, with 74.2 percent.

Who do you think is number three? NERSBA with 72.7 percent of its students considered “proficient.”

Remember, NERSBA scholars come from the same demographic as Washington County students. Heck, some of them are from Washington County.

Remember also that NERSBA is required to give preference to those applicants considered “first generation college,” meaning their parents did not go to college. Unlike other early college high schools, they are prohibited from picking the cream of the crop.

All that being said, I was more than a little distressed last week when I read a legal brief outlining the case that Judge Grant ruled on Monday.

I fear that this marks the beginning of the end for NERSBA, which has proven to be a valid option in parents’ arsenal of choosing the best school for their child.

Beaufort County certainly had some valid points.

First, when created, NERSBA had a close relationship with NC State University and NC New Schools project. Leadership changed at State, which changed that relationship, and New Schools no longer exists.

Also, when first opened, NERSBA was housed at the Vernon James Center. Students had quick, easy access to scientists there, something no other school could claim. However, they got too big for the space (perhaps more precisely, they got too big for the septic system and couldn’t afford the $1-plus million to have sewer installed), and had to move. The best available space, board members decided, was the former Jamesville High School.

I understand those shortfalls. I get that that creates concern for Beaufort County schools.

But, when they say in the brief that NERSBA “deliver[s] mediocre results,” my blood pressure rises.

Yes, if you take Beaufort County Early College High School by itself — which is restricted to the cream of the crop — more than 95 percent of students are “proficient.” However, taken as a whole, Beaufort County boasts 55.3 percent proficient, kind of middle of the road (mediocre if you will) for the state’s 115 districts.

Makes me wonder what their early college high school would score if they had to focus on first-generation college kids instead of taking only the best performers. But, I’m biased.

My concerns are twofold.

What happens to NERSBA if districts are suddenly allowed to pull out?

Washington County expressed that desire shortly after NERSBA opened its doors. Tyrrell County joined that battle cry a few years later. That only leaves Pitt and Martin counties, and they might want out as well, I just haven’t heard. Either way, it’s tough to make a regional school with only two participating counties.

Why do they all want out?

Money.

State allocations are based on student population. If you’ve got potential students heading elsewhere, the money goes with the student. In a nutshell, more kids, more money; fewer kids, less money.

But, removing parents’ option for their kids to attend NERSBA  is, in my opinion, a bad idea for society as a whole.

We all pay taxes in one form or another. We’re all invested in educating the next generation.

We should all want the best possible return on that investment.

Since not every student learns in the same way, it only makes sense to have options available.

NERSBA isn’t for everyone, but it has proven to be a first-rate choice for some.

It might be difficult to argue with success, but Beaufort County schools did just that — and won.

 

Mary Wayt, The Beacon’s publisher and editor, may be reached at (252) 793-2123, or via e-mail at editor@roanokebeacon.com.


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