Schools talk test performance, fewer resources

Published 7:13 pm Friday, December 2, 2016

At a special-called meeting Monday night, administrators from 10 schools presented to the Beaufort County Board of Education, outlining the successes and challenges faced at their respective locations.

The 10 schools represented were: Chocowinity Primary, Early College High, Eastern Elementary, Bath Elementary, John Small Elementary, P.S. Jones Middle, Northeast Elementary, John Cotten Tayloe, Ed Tech Center and Northside High.



One of the more common themes among the Monday presentations was the need for more educational resources, whether it is funds, supplies or capital improvements.

Kelly Makepeace, principal at John Small Elementary, told the board her school is dealing with outdated instructional resources, including a lack of budget money for technology upgrades.

Makepeace said John Small also experienced a turnover rate of 11 new teachers, and she herself is in her first year as principal.

Principal Tracey Nixon, of P.S. Jones Middle, discussed some similar challenges at her school.

P.S. Jones replaced 11 employees this school year, plus two administrators. Because of lower numbers, three fewer positions were funded, leading to an increase in class sizes.

Nixon said it has also been a challenge to find funds when the school is not designated as Title I. Title I schools are designated as such if they have high populations or a high number of low-income families, and receive federal money.

When board Vice Chair Carolyn Walker asked about the one thing Nixon wishes she could change or that would make a big difference for the school, Nixon answered adamantly that Title I funding would be a big help.

Eastern Elementary Principal Melissa Dana had somewhat different concerns, focusing more on the capital improvements that are needed at her school.

Although the school did experience staff reduction, Dana said she thinks it’s important to keep students safe and make sure the capital projects are available to make it happen.



The Early College High School has experienced much success with its students, according to Principal Emily Pake.

During the past two school years, the Early College has boasted a 100-percent graduation rate, and most of the students graduate with a two-year degree from Beaufort County Community College. The Early College operates on a five-year plan, during which students can earn their high school diploma and an associate degree, Pake said.

“Our goal is to have all our students at the 90-percent level or higher,” she said of those earning an associate degree.

Pake said that students who do not earn the degree graduate with about a year and a half of college credits, which to her, is still a “success story.”

All of the schools presenting saw positive testing results from their students.

Northside High School scored at 95 percent or above in its math course rigor in 2015-2016, and the students increased the minimum ACT composite score by close to 17 percent as compared to the previous year.

Northeast Elementary reported big improvements in its end-of-grade proficiency, including a 12.8-percent jump in third-grade math from 2014 and a 15.1-percent jump in fourth-grade math.

Makepeace reported that the school’s fifth-grade science scores in 2015-2016 improved by more than 25 percent, as well as a 12.4-percent increase in overall growth.

Being a new principal, Makepeace said she has a lot of work before her to continue that legacy of improvement.

“I’ve got a lot of work sustaining that growth and continuing that growth,” she said Monday.



The presenting schools are also all trying to improve upon parent and community involvement, and most named it as a top priority.

John Cotten Tayloe Principal Bubs Carson mentioned his school’s involvement with Washington High School’s Teacher Cadets, as well as teacher Jessica Harrison’s invitation to speak at a statewide conference earlier this month.

Beaufort County Ed Tech Center is also working to improve the amount of parental involvement in its students’ education, according to Principal Betty Jane Green.

Dana relayed to the board the success of Eastern Elementary’s movie nights at Festival Park, which involve partnerships with Vidant Beaufort Hospital, DownEast Entertainment and the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

Bath Elementary Assistant Principal Candice Strickland named community involvement as one of her school’s strengths, as well, and Chocowinity Primary Principal Alicia Vosburgh said her school has organized more parent nights and utilized social media to keep parents informed.

“We’ve just got to stick with it,” Vosburgh said of these efforts.

Chocowinity Primary has modeled many changes after the recommendations of education expert Ron Clark, and four of the staff attended a nationwide conference in Disney World this week for Blue Ribbon Schools.