'Renewal School System' Gives One County Same Flexibility As Charter Schools

Jul 6, 2018
Originally published on July 6, 2018 11:19 am

North Carolina has a new law to give a school district more flexibility if it has a lot of struggling schools - and the law applies only to Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

Almost half of the schools in the Rowan-Salisbury district - between Greensboro and Charlotte - have what's called restart status. Low-performing schools can apply to be a restart school to get the same kind of flexibility that charter schools have. It allows them to do things like change their calendar or the way they pay teachers. The hope is that flexibility will help the school improve. Now, a new law will allow that county to treat all schools in its district like a restart school.

Rowan-Salisbury School administrators say being a "Renewal School System" will allow them to make more efficient and effective decisions across the district. Last school year, 16 of the 35 schools in the district had restart status, which qualifies the district as having the highest percentage of restart schools of any district in the state.

Superintendent Lynn Moody says it's been tough handling a district where about half the schools had the status and half didn't.

"It was a matter of trying to manage two different districts," Moody said. "We had one set of rules for our restart schools, and one set of rules for our more traditional schools."

That meant two separate budgets, and sometimes different calendars in schools that served the same families. North High School, a restart school, adjusted its schoolyear to a year-round calendar, but a nearby middle school that fed into the high school did not have restart status, and was on a traditional calendar. 

"We're placing a burden on our families in that area of our community on how they're going to get their babies to school every day," said Rowan-Salisbury Schools' Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon, adding that many families in that community depend on public transportation to meet their day-to-day needs.

The new status will give all the schools in the district the same flexibility. That will allow them more options when it comes to budgeting, curriculum, hiring non-traditional teachers, and giving students more instruction time.

Superintendent Moody pushed for the new designation. She says she hopes being relieved of standards and restrictions placed on traditional public schools will allow the district to innovate and improve educational outcomes across the county.

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