The NCGA’s Vote of No-Confidence in the Innovative School District – What Happened in Wayne County

This week the North Carolina General Assembly delivered a provision in a technical corrections bill that in all intents and purposes ruled against its own educational reform effort called the Innovative School District.

As many public school advocates know, Wayne County’s Carver Heights Elementary School was the second school selected by the Innovative School District for a takeover due to “poor” performance.

Carver Heights serves a population that is extremely hard hit with systemic poverty.

The Innovation School District chose only Carver Heights for inclusion this year. Claims by the ISD superintendent of reaching out and receiving community support were loudly debunked by local officials. The State Board of Education did make an approval of the takeover, but what the NCGA did was rather surprising.

They just gave a vote of no-confidence to a reform effort that the same body of lawmakers rammed through legislation not long ago. They literally just said that the ISD was not the solution.

As Alex Granados of reported this past week,

The bottom line is that, upon approval by the State Board of Education of the pending restart application, Carver Heights Elementary School will remain in the Wayne County Public Schools, operated by the Wayne County Board of Education, with no supervision by the Innovative School District.

Maybe the NCGA realized in a moment of clarity that the ISD is not a viable reform effort. Consider the following:

  1. The word “innovative” does not magically make a reform effort used in other states work in NC.

Handing over community schools to charter control control is simply not innovative. It’s privatization. Looking to “for-profit” charter chains to bring “new ideas” when the very constraints that are holding back many of these “low-achieving” schools could be remedied by better treatment from Raleigh to the very populations that feed these schools is not innovative. It’s creating a situation that gives the appearance of a need from outside sources so that someone may profit.

  1. The State Superintendent’s mantra of “local control.”

Mark Johnson has control over the ISD. Yet, is it not Johnson who ran a platform that emphasized local control of schools? From an interview with WUNC in May of last year (

“ But there is the distrust between people in Raleigh and out in the local school districts of whether or not that may be happening.”

“This department in Raleigh needs to be a place that is seen as a department that supports schools in the local districts, not tells schools what to do. “

What the ISD really does is neglect local control. That’s overreach.

Wayne County fought back for its own students. They have a plan in place to turn the school around. That’s local control.

  1. No one wants to be a part of it.

There was no indication that any single school on the list of prospective schools this year or last year to be taken over by the Innovative School District wanted to be a part of it.

Not one.

Again, not one – even after meeting with officials representing the ISD.

4. Proving that poverty affects schools.

If ever there was a correlation to poverty and student achievement, the lists that the ISD used to select schools shows it. Why? Because these schools were measured by the Jeb-Bush style grading system that literally shows that most every school which has an “F” school performance grade is one that services a population with high levels of poverty.

Even DPI’s 2016-2017 report on school report cards grades and poverty yielded the following graph:

poverty table

That’s not innovation. It’s proof that the Innovative School District is yet another attempt at weakening the ties between the community and its schools to create a veiled appearance that the state needs to step in and do something that will profit someone else.

And Wayne County called them on it. The fact that the ISD superintendent could not build that “bridge” with the local community with all of the resources and enabling afforded to the ISD is proof that this reform effort is not one that communities will “buy in to.”

Wayne County has a plan in place and has taken measures to help turn around its own school. That is where the community “buy in” is right now.

Now the ISD should give back Southside-Ashpole Elementary back to Robeson County and the NCGA should do more to combat the poverty that afflicts so many students in that school.