SSS had its reasons
Your July 3 edition contained an editorial, “Clayton’s gain is a loss for Smithfield-Selma,” regarding a proposed career and technical education academy for Clayton High School.
Background information is necessary to understand why a decision was made to move the academy from Smithfield-Selma High because it didn’t have local support.
At the Sept. 8, 2015, Johnston County Board of Education meeting, Chief Academic Officer Rodney Peterson presented his grant proposal for the Johnston County Career and Technical Academy to be located at Smithfield-Selma High. It was “designed to provide an academic environment for students who want to earn a college level (career/technical education) degree while in high school,” he said. It was to be a partnership with Johnston Community College.
At the Dec. 8 school board meeting, it was announced that the grant was moving forward to the State Board of Education and State Board of Community Colleges for approval. The academy would be open to students throughout the county and would require an interview and application process. It was learned later that SSS students would compete for some seats and that they could not play sports if accepted.
During the period of writing and submitting the grant, the SSS administration, faculty, advisory board and parents weren’t included in the planning process.
The school population did fit the three descriptions for offering cooperative, innovative high school programs as established by state law: at-risk students, students with parents who didn’t go to college and students who would benefit from accelerated academic instruction. However, the operation of the academy and other important details weren’t publicly explained.
In late February, the high school learned that the academy wouldn’t be part of Smithfield-Selma High. Although it would be housed at SSS, it would have a separate name, school identification number, school principal, faculty, different calendar and different operating hours. There were no plans to add additional classrooms, even though 450 students could be added in the future. In addition, the grant wasn’t long-term, and a plan to replace the state funds wasn’t established. It was estimated that it would take nearly $900,000 for the first year.
This worried local people. A preference would have been to incorporate an academy into Smithfield-Selma High, strengthen its career and technical education program and keep it under the leadership of the school. By working together, SSS, regional employers, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and the community could have built a more comprehensive, long-term program for the school. Both the school and students would have benefited greatly – perhaps similarly to the effect the proposed agricultural academy for South Johnston High should have.
The school board recently learned that the state grant won’t be coming after all. The state apparently saw the situation too and denied the grant. So the school board plans to provide $300,000 for an academy at Clayton anyway. That money certainly would have helped the existing career and technical education program at SSS and offered expansion. But the horse was already out of the gate, and the school system’s Central Office administration had made too many commitments for changes to be made so close to the opening of school. It’s hoped that attention from the Central Office will be given to Smithfield-Selma High as soon as possible by having sincere dialogues with school leaders and the community.
Chair, Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools
Too much at once
The Town of Selma just passed a new budget that includes a 300-percent pay increase for the mayor and a 267 percent increase for the Town Council.
Now I am not saying they do not deserve a pay increase, for I do believe they have been underpaid. What I do take issue with is such a large percentage at one time. Now some have said it is a small amount dollar wise, which may be true, but when has any taxpayer in Selma received a 300-percent pay raise?
I would have recommended that they take the pay raise over, let’s say, four or six years; it would not have looked as bad. On the other hand, I have always been against elected officials having the power to give themselves a pay raise. I have always felt it should be left up to the voters; but then again, I know if it were left up to the voters, they might never get a pay raise.