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School officials defend funding for new school

By Staff
Students and teachers being evaluated for next school year
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
Officials with Beaufort County’s public schools and community college were faced Tuesday evening with justifying funding for a fourth high school in the county to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners .
The school system plans to open the Beaufort County Early-College High School in the next school year. The school would offer a five-year curriculum from which students would emerge with a high-school diploma and either an associate’s degree or two years of transferable college credits.
Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss told commissioners at a budget workshop Tuesday that the school would not require an increase in funding from the county. The school would be staffed with teachers already employed by the school system, and state and federal school funds would follow students to the new school, he said.
However, the community college needs to build a new building to house the public-safety classes that will be displaced by the new high school. The budgeted cost of that building is $275,000, accounting for the majority of the 42.4-percent increase in funding requested by the community college for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That expense was built into the $435,000 capital-outlay request the community college presented to the board. It also asked for $1.87 million for its 2008-2009 current-expense budget, a 5.37-percent increase from this fiscal year’s appropriations.
The application deadline for admission to the new high school ended April 30. Todd Blumenreich, who has been reassigned from his post as principal of Southside High School, will be taking the helm of the new school this summer. He is interviewing prospective teachers and the 81 student applicants. Sixty students will be chosen to enter the high school next year at the ninth-grade level, he said. The school’s target demographic is students who will be the first in their families to attend college.
Ever concerned with metrics, Commissioner Al Klemm asked Blumenreich how the school’s success rate would be measured “so that you can justify continuing the program.”
Commissioner Hood Richardson was not convinced that the early college is the best method of encouraging students to finish high school and possibly further their educations. He said Gov. Mike Easley’s push to establish the programs in all 100 North Carolina counties is a “political” decision influenced by “teachers unions” to create more jobs.
But no new teacher positions were created by the establishment of the new school, Cayton was quick to point out. In fact, the vacancy in the principal’s office at Southside High School was the only one that needed to be filled, he said.
David McLawhorn, president of Beaufort County Community college, did not escape his budget presentation without having to answer questions posed by Richardson and Commissioner Stan Deatherage regarding enrollment of illegal immigrants.
With a chuckle, McLawhorn answered that a recent directive from Attorney General Roy Cooper disallowed any of the state’s 58 community colleges from enrolling undocumented applicants. However, the college cannot deny undocumented students enrollment in English-as-a-second-language or basic-skills classes, he said.
The community college currently has two undocumented students enrolled, McLawhorn said. One is a prison inmate and the other is a high-school student taking college-level courses. Neither is affected by the new directive, McLawhorn said.