Meetings planned to discuss St. Helena Elementary concerns

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Meetings planned to discuss St. Helena Elementary concerns

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Friday, September 14, 2012   |  487 Words  |  

Two meetings to discuss community concerns about St. Helena Elementary School have been scheduled within a week of each other.

The first, called by Beaufort County Board of Education member Michael Rivers, who represents the area, will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the school.

The second, a meeting of the full school board called by board Chairman Fred Washington Jr., is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the school.

Both meetings are in response to community concerns about the school's recent "F" grade on federal accountability standards. Parents and community members have called for changes at the school, and in response, the school district has outlined a number of programs and new efforts to boost student achievement.

But Rivers said he's concerned the meetings are duplicating efforts. The meeting he organized has been planned for about a week, he said. Rivers also organized a community meeting in late August for parents to voice their concerns and said he had always planned to host a follow-up meeting.

Washington said he began to organize the full board meeting about two days ago, after he had already learned about the Wednesday meeting.

Rivers said he has advertised the Wednesday meeting with a local radio station and handed out flyers, so word's already out, and he doesn't plan to cancel.

"My concern is that ... the community is not going to have a good feeling about (the Sept. 25) meeting," Rivers said. "That they'll feel like someone from the outside is trying to dictate to the community when and should it even have a meeting."

Washington said the concerns about the elementary school's struggles merit the attention of all board members, not just one. That's why he called the full board meeting.

"I thought it would be important, given the gravity of concerns and issues there," he said. "My opinion is the full board needs to listen and hear. Any decisions will be made by the full board, and we're talking about possibly significant changes."

Washington declined to specify what changes could occur at the school. District officials have said they have already capped class sizes at 20 students and begun on-site executive coaching for principal Kay Keeler.

Washington brushed aside the notion that calling the meeting was a political move. Washington and Rivers have been drawn into the same district under redistricting prompted by the 2010 census. They will face each other and another candidate, Bernie Schein, in the November election.

"This started off with community meetings and had to be elevated because of the level of concern," Washington said.

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