Help is en route to Halifax County, thanks to Howard Manning Jr., the Wake County Superior Court judge who is charged with overseeing improvement in the state's disadvantaged school districts. When Manning wrote state education leaders last month declaring that the Halifax schools were committing "academic genocide," it got some attention.
Now Governor Perdue says she's sending in the cavalry. There will be "master educators" hired by Halifax to help teachers and also coaches from the state Department of Public Instruction. Manning has to approve the administration's approach, or he could move ahead and order the state simply to take over the Halifax system.
Halifax students are indeed in trouble. Only 15 percent of seventh-grade readers were performing at grade level last year (based on testing) compared with 51 percent statewide. The district's students, numbering about 4,400, also perform poorly relative to statewide statistics in other areas. Halifax, in northeastern North Carolina (I-95 cuts through the middle of it), is one of six districts where state officials have been focusing efforts on improvement.
Bill Harrison, chief executive of the state's schools, says the additional help in Halifax County will be even more intense than what's already being provided in troubled districts. And training will include not just teachers but administrators.
It sounds like a plan. But let us hope legislators recognize the need to improve and thus invest in all of the state's public schools. "Not-failing" or "average" or even "a little better than average" should never be good enough.