03/07/10 — Legislators pay visit to Dillard Academy

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Legislators pay visit to Dillard Academy

By Staff Reports
Published in News on March 7, 2010 1:50 AM

Two area lawmakers were educated last week on the successful role of public charter schools.

State Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, and state Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, paid a visit to Dillard Academy, a K-4 charter school, as part of a series of statewide legislative tours.

Their visit coincided with the nationwide "Read Across America Day," affording Davis and Sager an added opportunity to read to students at the K-4 school on Elm Street.

The lawmakers also heard testimonials from leaders and parents.

"There are three questions we ask prospective staff members," said Dillard board chair John Stokes. "First, do you love children? Secondly, do you love children? And finally, do you love children?"

The school, like many others, has struggled with funding issues and state cutbacks. Grants and after-school programs have been provided through a number of philanthropic efforts, said Danielle Baptiste, auxiliary services director.

In addition, Dillard has launched communitywide programs for dropout prevention, character education and mentoring, as well as childcare services and GED training for parents.

"From the start, we've been dedicated to getting parents involved in our school," she said.

The school has received recognition for some of its innovative efforts, including the integration of a three-acre garden into each classroom's curriculum, Ms. Baptiste said. Last spring, the school's Garden Choir and staff were treated to an expense-paid trip to San Jose, Calf., where they performed at the opening of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's annual Food and Society Conference.

"Everyone recognizes the good work that Dillard Academy is doing in the community," said Davis.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina organized the Dillard tour, which came approximately one month after the state submitted its application for federal Race to the Top funds.

"Public charter schools are a hot topic in our state right now," said Darrell Allison, the group's president. "The more information lawmakers can have, the better policy that can be made."

North Carolina law currently sets a cap of 100 public charter schools statewide, but with eligibility for federal grant money at stake, many lawmakers are reconsidering the cap.

"There's good opportunity in charter schools," Sager said. "I like the fact that, in some cases, they put all the money directly into education and not so much into facilities."