06/09/17 — Future of Goldsboro High School becomes concern

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Future of Goldsboro High School becomes concern

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on June 9, 2017 7:14 AM

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Marcia Manning

The transfer of Goldsboro High School Principal Robert Yelverton has some people at the school concerned for its future.

Yelverton was one of six school administrators transferred Wednesday evening, moving from Goldsboro High to the principal position at Eastern Wayne Elementary.

Stepping into the role of interim principal will be Marcia Manning, former Wayne County Public Schools innovative schools coordinator. Ms. Manning is a former high school principal in Tyrrell County, and an education specialist at the now-defunct N.C. New Schools non-profit.

Yelverton's transfer is the fourth such move at the school in five years, which Goldsboro High parent and school improvement team member Tracie Holden said was premature.

"I feel like he didn't have the time he needed to make an impact," she said. "He wasn't there long enough for there to be anything to measure. If you give him three or four years, then you have something to look at."

School officials have declined to comment on the specifics of why Yelverton was transferred. Of the six schools which saw administrators moved around, Goldsboro High was the only one not to end up with a permanent principal.

Superintendent Michael Dunsmore said that this is because Goldsboro High is a "restart" school, a state program which allows a local board of education to run a school with rules exemptions similar to charter schools. As a continually low-performing school, Dunsmore said, Goldsboro High needs to show substantial improvement in a shorter time in order to avoid state intervention.

"With a low performing school, you do have a very strict timeline before you have to look at replacing a principal," he said. "We want to make sure there is the best person possible in that role. We need someone who is experienced in turning around low performing schools."

Doing so is crucial to keeping the school open and under the authority of WCPS, he said.

Dunsmore said he has confidence in Ms. Manning, calling her "the ideal person to lead any sort of transition we're going to have."

Ms. Holden was less sure. She said she felt hurt and betrayed by the constant shuffling of leadership at Goldsboro High, and she was not convinced Ms. Manning could relate to the struggles of the students there.

"We need somebody who can relate to them on a personal level," she said. "These kids need stability. They're bringing someone in just until they find another person, and the whole time the kids are lacking."

At Monday's board of education meeting, Ms. Holden spoke to the board to request more support and transparency from WCPS about Goldsboro High.

She said that Dunsmore in particular had not attended meetings after being invited by parents, and said she hoped to see more of him going forward.

Three days later, after Yelverton's transfer, Ms. Holden said she does not feel like Goldsboro High is a priority for the board. Many at the school feel ignored and pushed to the side, she said.

Dunsmore disagreed, saying that several members of the WCPS leadership team have been in and out of the school all year looking for ways to improve it.

At the board meeting Monday, at-large representative and Goldsboro High alum Raymond Smith Jr. took time at the end of the meeting to respond to Ms. Holden's comments.

"I want Ms. Holden to know that with all the things that come before us, we are listening," he said. "We may not respond, but that doesn't mean we don't discuss the concerns that are brought before us."

Smith said the board typically doesn't respond directly to comments to avoid getting into a back-and-forth in public. Ms. Holden had left the meeting by the time he made his remarks.

Dunsmore said that fixing the inconsistencies with Goldsboro High would require an "aggressive" approach to finding the right principal.

He said that he considers Yelverton an "outstanding" principal who proved his expertise while working as principal of Northeast Elementary. He said the transfer was not meant as a reflection on Yelverton's capabilities, but rather making sure that "the right people are in the right positions."

Ms. Holden said she believes that Goldsboro High has good students and good staff, and all that is necessary for success are the proper tools. The board of education has wrestled in recent months with the question of how to best equip students, either with textbooks or electronic devices.

With state funding for textbooks at all-time lows, an ongoing technology update initiative may be the district's solution. That program is still in the early stages, however.