Exclusive: Jim Paul And Top Staff Meet With Carver/Century Supporters

May 30, 2008


Escambia School Superintendent Jim Paul and top members of his staff met Friday morning with Carver/Century K-8 School supporters to discuss the school’s future.

Paul began by telling the Carver/Century supporters that “this is not a decision making meeting,” and said again at the end of the meeting that his mind about a recommendation to close Carver/Century is not made up.

“I want to do what is right for the children of Century, Paul told Century Mayor Freddie Mcall; Blue Ribbon Committee members Laura Nelson, Rev. Willie Carter, Rev. Irvin Stallworth and Brenda Spencer; and Century resident Lina Showalter.

Facing millions in budget cuts, Paul said that the district must look at efficiency and the cost per student at every school. He said that with a principal, assistant principal, a curriculum coordinator and a declining enrollment, Carver/Century is expensive to operate.

“I’ve always been reluctant to close Carver/Century even though the numbers said to close it,” Paul said. “I continued to keep Carver/Century off the closure list. But when the first grades came out about a month ago, it now became a matter of what is best for the children.” Carver/Century’s FCAT Writing+ score released about a month ago were the worst in the county.

“There are members on the school board that feel strongly that the school should close,” he said. “The school board cannot shut down a school without my recommendation. My staff is recommending that I recommend that the school close. I am here to hear what you have to say before I decide.”

Paul said he basically has three options: recommend the closure of the school before the next school year begins, recommend closure in a year for the 2009-2010 school year, or simply do nothing.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Paul Fetsko said he had worked with Carver/Century for the past 25 years both as an assistant superintendent and as a special education coordinator. He said the school has more technology, more supplies and more resources per student that any other school in the county.

“The resources available to the students is phenomenal,” he said. But he said the “more capable students” had fled to the charter Byrneville Elementary School when it opened in 2002.

Laura Nelson said that Carver/Century is more than just numbers. She related the story of a bus driver who keeps a box with extra clothes and toothbrushes on her bus. “Parents will sometimes put the kids on the bus still in their pajamas.”

“There is a need here. They need us,” she said. “I know numbers, but sometimes you have to go forth with what is best for the kids.”

To make a change at Carver/Century, the group needs more time than just a year, Barbara Spencer said.

“I ask that you do allow us as a group to do these things that we need to do,” she said. “You can’t change these things in just a year. We are at a point now where we have reached the bottom; we can only pull ourselves up.”

“Why not close another school? This is the newest school,” Century resident Lina Showalter said. “Why not bring children from older schools to Carver/Century? Has Ernest Ward been condemned?”

“No, it has not,” Assistant Superintendent for Operations Shawn Dennis responded.

“All the kids ends up here together at Northview High School, Associate Superintendent for Public and Interagency Affairs Ronnie Arnold said. “And it seems to be working here at Northview.”

Showalter proposed that students in Pre-K to second grades be sent to Bratt Elementary, students in third to fifth grades be sent to Carver/Century and students in grades six to eight be sent to Ernest Ward Middle School.”

“Failure is not an option when it comes to our children,” Rev. Irvin Stallworth said.

As for closing Ernest Ward Middle School and moving those students to Carver/Century, parents could simply use school choice laws to immediately transfer their students away from the “F” school at Carver/Century, said Director of Elementary Education Wayne Odom. He added that while some have complained about the distance that Carver/Century students would be bused to Bratt or Ernest Ward, many Bratt and Ernest Ward students are already bused a greater distance every school day because it is a large rural area.

“Mr. Garthwaite (the principal) and the others there are super,” Century Mayor Freddie McCall said. ” I am begging for at least one more year to turn Carver/Century around.”

“Carver/Century is very important to me,” Paul said. “I have not yet made up my mind what I am going to do. It is going to be a long weekend for you and me while we think about this.”

Others in attendance at Friday’s meeting were Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Services Barbara Linker and Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross.

NorthEscambia.com was the only media at the meeting. The meeting was not a public, or “town hall” meeting, but an invitation only meeting.

Pictured above: Rev. Irvin Stallworth listens as Escambia County School Superintendent Jim Paul speaks. Pictured below (L-R): Century Mayor Freddie McCall, Brenda Spencer, Lina Showalter and Rev. Willie Carter listen to Paul. NorthEscambia.com exclusive photos, click to enlarge.



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