Paul Calls For Closure of Carver/Century K-8 School

May 16, 2008


Escambia School Superintendent Jim Paul recommended the closure of Carver/Century K-8 School at a Thursday school board workshop, a workshop attended by many supporters of the school.

Paul’s plan says that closing Carver/Century would save the district $680,439 in the first year and send 205 students to Bratt Elementary, Ernest Ward Middle and possibly Molino Park Elementary. The closure could be approved by the board as early as July, and could take effect for the 2008-2009 school year that begins in August.

schoolstallworth.jpg“You cannot have a community that does not have a school,” New Life Baptist Church Pastor Irvin Stallworth (pictured left) told the board. “I am asking that you take this opportunity to look at the total picture.”

“The town of Century has been through a lot,” he added.

“We are ready to take a stand, and we are ready to stand up for our school,” Brenda Spencer said.

“Century does not ask a lot,” she said. “Is it logical to close our little school…have you considered the physiological effects this will have on our children?”

schoolcurry.jpgOne board member, Claudia Brown-Curry (pictured left), repeatedly spoke out against the closure.

“When you are talking about closure, you have got to look at more than money,” Brown-Curry said.

She then asked numerous questions of Paul.

“Have you given up on the school,” she asked the superintendent.

“No m’am, I have not given up” he responded. “It has been frustrating for me.” He said that perhaps he had tried harder to improve Carver/Century during his tenure as superintendent than any other school in the district.

“They didn’t qualify for an assistant principal; I sent one up there anyway. They had a curriculum coordinator up there anyway,” Paul said. “I personally don’t know what else I can do in regards with that school.”

Brown-Curry questioned whether Carver/Century’s attendance zone could be redrawn, and if another North Escambia school could be closed. Paul said that would not be a possibility, because if the district forced for students to attend Carver/Century, those students would simply transfer back to their original school. Since Carver/Center is a state rated “F” school that does not make adequate yearly progress, students would be allowed under state law to request a district funded transfer to another higher performing school.

“We have not exhausted all possibilities to change that school,” Brown-Curry said. “Sometimes you have to change leadership.”

“You have got to look at the community. You are taking the life out of the community,” she said. She even suggested that perhaps the district had not done all it could do to improve Carver/Century.

But board member Patty Hightower said the district and many, many volunteers had attempted to improve the school over the past few decades. She said that her church, Trinity Presbyterian in Pensacola, had partnered with the school, providing volunteers and mentors, for the past 27 years.

“What has changed in those 27 years? Not much,” Hightower said. “We’ve tried different leaders…you cannot fault the Carver/Century faculty at all. I don’t know what the right answer is.”

She said perhaps improvement would come “If we put them in a place where there are more opportunities, in a larger school…That is what I am leaning toward.”

“We can work hard, but we’ve got to work smarter,” Brown-Curry said. “Just to give up on some children…I just can’t buy that.”

schoolberg.jpg“The reality is we have too many schools,” board member Jeff Bergosh (pictured left) said. Bergosh has openly called for Carver/Century’s closure. “We have to make tough decisions in the face of this budget crunch.”

“When you throw dollars at a school over and over,” he said, “it does not guarantee success.

“We’ve got to motivate them,” District 5 board member Pete Gindl said. He suggested that perhaps taking the failing students from Carver/Century and putting them with higher performing students at another school would serve as that motivation. “But there’s nothing wrong with those children.”

Board member Gerald Boone, who sat quietly during most of the Carver/Century discussion, said that perhaps the closure could be delayed for a year to fully look at other options.

“But little by little, the hurt goes away,” Boone said. “That will happen in the event Carver/Century goes away.”

“It is not about the people that live in that town,” Bergosh said. “It is about that school.”

He said nearby Bratt Elementary is consistently an “A” rated school, while Carver/Century is consistently a failing school.

“Bratt is 10 to 14 miles away, but it is a world away in performance,” Bergosh said. “If you look at a student going from an ‘F’ school to an ‘A’ school, I don’t see that as a negative.”

Pictured top of page: Century Mayor Freddie McCall addresses the Escambia County School Board, asking that they save Carver/Century K-8 School. Pictured below: Many Century residents were among those in attendance at Thursday’s school board workshop. photos.



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