Plans take shape for Williford

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Staff Writer

Monday, October 23, 2017

In the wake of Williford Elementary School’s recent escape from the N.C. Innovative School District,  N.C. Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, spoke out on the issue of Williford’s future.

Williford Elementary School was on the short list of four lowest-performing qualifying schools in the state under consideration for placement in the state’s inaugural Innovative School District set to begin operation next school year. Placement in the ISD would have meant that Williford would have fallen under state control during the next five to eight years and would have been managed under the direction of a charter management organization or educational management organization of the state’s choosing. However, last week, Williford was granted a reprieve as only one school in Robeson County was selected for inclusion.

"Williford escapes state takeover this time,” Bryant said. “I believe that Superintendent Eric Hall listened to Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, the Nash County Board of Commissioners, the legislators, City Council and all of the parents and community leaders who committed to supporting improvement at Williford at the local level. Now, we all need to redouble our efforts to ensure that Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools has a credible, aggressive and evidence-based plan to improve student performance that we can actively support in order to avoid this same takeover threat next year."

In response, Superintendent Dr. Shelton Jefferies said the school district has such a plan.

“Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools will continue the pursuit of district initiatives designed to increase embedded teacher and student supports (student support specialists and ​instructional coaches). Specifically at Williford we will also continue Data Wise implementation, which is a continuous improvement process designed to drive improved practice through an increased use of data. Central Office staff will continue to monitor the implementation of the new Common Instructional Framework through the collaborative internal review process,” Jefferies said.

Jefferies said the school district has work ahead and indicated that he thought the response to the recent crisis was merely a distraction to the educational process.

“All of our work is evidence-based as presented regularly at our board of education meetings for board review and approval. It is of critical importance that we remain focused on continuous improvement and not be driven to hysterics by act​ions​ beyond the schoolhouse. When the press conferences and media coverage fade, we still have hard work to do on a daily basis,” Jefferies said.

Williford Elementary School had a particularly tough year last year. It did not meet growth and had one of the lowest school performance scores in the state. However, it did meet growth the previous three years and performed at least 10 points higher on the school performance scores during that time. School leaders are hoping that last year’s performance was a temporary setback and that future scores will reflect the school system’s new efforts across the district.

Another potential way of protecting Williford Elementary School from consideration for inclusion in the Innovative School District for the 2019-20 school year would be to place the school under a state-approved school restart model, which would allow the school to remain under district control but would grant the school district more flexibility in addressing the issues at the school.

When asked if such a plan is under consideration, Jefferies told the Telegram: “Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools will conduct a thorough review of the evidence gained from the ISD process and make appropriate recommendations for the Board of Education’s consideration. This information will be presented in an open meeting.”

Jefferies said the community also has a role to play in the success of the school district.

“The community can best serve all of our schools by remaining engaged in a sustained manner. Volunteerism and advocacy for public schooling is always the best method of support for our educators,” Jefferies said.