Selected readings on US charter schools
TARBORO – Several elected officials joined school administrators Friday at the fastest-growing charter school in Eastern North Carolina, North East Carolina Prep School, to reflect on the institution’s massive growth and officially dedicate its new middle school facility.
The school’s student population has more than doubled in one year, and school officials said 130 students now are on the waiting list.
The dedication ceremony kicked off in front of the school’s recently constructed two-story middle school facility, which encompasses about 51,000 square feet and is capable of housing 700 students.
The new space will be essential as the charter school continues to add a high school grade each year until it is fully K-12.
“Our staff and students have a vision. At this point, we completed that vision, but we still have a lot left ahead of us,” said John Westberg, executive director of North East Carolina Prep.
North East Carolina Prep provides the type of environment, both culturally and educationally, that benefits the region, Westberg said.
“This is a choice for the people of this region, and we feel we have fulfilled the promise for that choice,” Westberg said.
The charter school’s band program, dubbed the “Husky Band,” has grown from 45 students to 120 students in sixth through ninth grades since the first day of classes.
N.C. Rep. Joe Tolson, D-Edgecombe, lauded the school’s efforts to foster the development of a unique exchange program with China.
“I want to congratulate (Westberg) for his vision in trying to incorporate global education in the process,” Tolson said. “We’re trying to make sure that we get a good exchange between North Carolina and Chinese students. We are making great progress, and we are working on trying to offer a North Carolina diploma in China.”
This spring, North East Carolina Prep will be sending an entourage to a Beijing school where they will absorb the Chinese school’s best practices as well as impart some of their own.
“Our young people will be living and working in a global economy. We have to make sure they understand what it is to live and work in that kind of atmosphere,” Tolson said. “(North East Carolina Prep) will prepare them for that.”
As executive director of N.C. Public Charter Schools Association, Eddie Goodall said the charter school’s administrators and board of directors should be proud of what they have accomplished so far, and North East Carolina Prep has a great reputation that started early.
North East Carolina Prep offers a choice for families in the region, Goodall said.
“We all seek happiness like we seek oxygen in the air. We want to have freedom – it’s just natural. A choice is part of being free and being able to make your own decisions,” Goodall said. “When we make decisions, we become invested in those decisions and take ownership of something. All of the administrators, teachers and parents had a choice when this school opened, and they chose to come here.”
Goodall urged school officials to pass on their teaching techniques to traditional public schools.
For every four parents of charter school students in the state, there are 96 that are not involved with charter schools, Goodall said.
“(North East Carolina Prep) is a laboratory. You’re going to mix chemicals and come up with elixirs that work,” Goodall said. “Then the traditional public schools are going to come and ask you for the formula, and I say give it to them.”
Following the dedication ceremony, members of the charter school’s freshman class led tours through the new middle school.
“The town of Tarboro is proud to partner with this school and will continue to do so to ensure its success. That’s not because the leader of the (Tarboro Town Council), me, is also an administrator,” Tarboro Interim Mayor Taro Knight said. “It makes good economic sense, and (the charter school) will play a vital role in our future development efforts and growth.”
As an organization that has accrued more than 100 employees in two years and has projected construction projects for the next three years, Knight said North East Carolina Prep is bringing “cash to an area that has double-digit unemployment.”
“When the town council annexed this property, we did it because (we knew) it would spur other businesses and people to move to this area,” Knight said. “If we don’t grow, we will die.”