NCS considering new facilities

Published 5:50 am Saturday, October 15, 2016


Bubba Bourne, president of the Northshore Charter School Board, announced at the board meeting Thursday that the school is looking to build a new facility.

Bourne said the new school is expected to cost about $10 million, though he emphasized the school is at the early stages of planning.

“It’s a multi-year process, but we’re actively seeking new facilities,” he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Bourne said the $10 million is coming from private donors, though he declined to offer specifics yet because the funding is not yet secured.

“Hopefully by February or March we’ll kind of have a definitive list of who’s going to be working on the project,” he said. “So I think it would behoove us to wait until we have concrete evidence of who’s going to do what.”

Bourne said he is open to possibly purchasing one of the old, unoccupied buildings from the city’s school district, though he said all of that is still undecided and it’s likely there will not be any decisions made until the new year.

Bourne said he would like a facility that includes a shared cafeteria and gym that can be used for multiple grades. He also wants a facility with thick walls to allow for quiet environments.

“A lot of the schools that were built in the ‘50s and ‘60s had solid 12-inch thick brick walls, but those types of structures diminished in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” he said. “Ideally you could have music in one room and reading in another room.”

In addition to Bourne’s announcement, the school board got more good news from school administrator updates on discipline and education.

Steve Sanders, the dean of students, said that since the school year began in August, the school has seen a steady decline in disciplinary incidents.

Sanders said there are several reasons for an initially high number of disciplinary issues at the start of the school year. Among those is the fact that the school expanded and added grades, bringing in new students who didn’t yet know the school’s disciplinary routines.

However, Sanders pointed out that the first month had 162 referrals and October is projected to only have about 55 referrals. Vice principal Tonja Varnado Seal said many of those referrals are repeat offenders.

“The majority of students I see daily are repeat offenders. I hate to call them that but there’s just a handful that we have problems with,” she said.

NCS principal Dee Dee McCullough said the administration is making an effort to treat each student the exact same, so they understand there is no favoritism and poor behavior will result in the same consequences.

“We are fair; we are consistent,” she said.

Sanders said he is tracking disciplinary data on an ongoing basis, and he is also implementing preventative measures. Sanders said the data shows what days and times see peak behavioral issues, and he has used that information to coordinate administrative responses to lessen misbehavior.

Sanders said the school is offering virtual points through an online application for good behavior. Each student ID has a barcode and anytime teachers or administrators notice good behavior they can scan the code with their cell phones and upload points. Those points can be exchanged for goods like food treats or fair tickets.

“The big thing is buy in. The students are really buying in now,” he said. “The students are seeing they give rewards so not everything is negative all the time.”

Later in the meeting, Monica Waasdrop, the school’s speech therapist, said she is making big gains this year with special education kids. She said in 21 days, under a new program she’s developed this year, some students have shown a year’s growth in grammar and language skills. Overall, she said her 40 SPED kids have gone from average to proficient.

“This shows that for my kids, who are usually stuck in the corner, expectations can be reached,” she said.

The board then got an update from Terri McClendon, the reading interventionist for non-special education students. She said 68 percent of the fifth and sixth graders were tested at below grade reading level, and they, too are making progress.

The school’s chief operations officer, Felicia Workman, asked the board for approval to purchase 70 to 75 new iPads for reading programs to further reading comprehension.

The school uses the Read Naturally program, but Workman said not enough students have access to iPads so the students are not progressing as quickly as they could with the program.

Bourne asked if the iPads could run other programs, too, and Workman assured him they could.
The board approved the purchase.

The meeting wrapped up shortly after that, though McCullough warned the board that state school scores coming out next month do not reflect current academics at Northshore Charter. Bourne became board president over the summer and McCullough was hired over the summer, as were many of the schools administrators, so she wanted to make sure everyone understood that current administrators had no hand in whatever scores the state would hand them.

“That’s old data,” she said. “We’ve improved.”