Charter school chief outlines improvement efforts
BY AMELIA HARPER
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Rocky Mount Preparatory School has received a lot of negative comments from detractors who were angered at some of the decisions made by school leaders over the past few months, so the head of the charter school gave a “State of the School” address Tuesday to highlight the changes he and his executive staff have made during his tenure.
The Telegram was urged to attend the meeting by critics of the school because they said there would be a “big show.” However, no negative comments were made at the public meeting.
Todd Pipkin said he had to make several changes to the school after he arrived in June 2016. Some of the main issues he addressed were the creation of a cafeteria, improving the efficiency of the transportation system and improving the financial health of the school.
Pipkin was hired after the Board of Trustees of the school ousted MasterMind Learning Solutions and its CEO Doug Haynes.
Pipkin said after he assumed the helm of the school he discovered that it was violating state law in relation to transportation.
“When we got here, there were four buses that should not have been on the road — and I am surprised no one got hurt. With the help of a grant, we were able to add three new buses and plan to add more to keep them up-to-date,” he said.
He also said the buses were being used inefficiently.
“We had roughly 200 bus stops with only 1,300 students and students were getting here late on most days,” Pipkin said. “We are not required to provide transportation, but we felt we should do so and needed to do it more efficiently. When we reorganized the bus route, we saved almost $50,000, which was money that was redirected toward education.”
Pipkin said he also was shocked to learn that the school had no cafeteria.
“In my 30 years of this business, I have never been in a school where kids were eating in their classrooms,” Pipkin said. “The classrooms were roach-infested and mold-infested. We had to replace much of the carpet and the workers had to use hazmat suits when they removed it.”
Pipkin said he could not let a child eat in those conditions, so he moved computers in the classroom and converted a computer lab into a cafeteria.
“A cafeteria is not just a place to eat, it is a social environment and it is a part of learning,” he said.
Pipkin also said the school finances have improved under his administration.
‘The school has always done well financially, but we are doing exceptionally well now,” he said. “We just had an audit and we have about a $400,000 surplus. This is important because finances are one of the main reasons that charter schools close.”
Pipkin also noted a host of other improvement to the school including increasing security measures, increasing the number of counselors for students, improving professional development for teachers and learning methods for students, requiring that teachers create lesson plans, and creating more than 40 partnerships with local community organizations and agencies.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Pipkin asked parents to become more involved in helping the school and the newly created Parent-Teacher Organization that currently has only three members.
He also asked that parents defend the school against detractors who are spreading rumors about the school.
“I need you to spread the good word about the school. ... There are people saying things against the school that don’t even have children here. I have big shoulders. Don’t worry about me. But we have people that go here and people that work hard here every day who are impacted by what is said. We need to speak up for what is ours,” Pipkin said.