9/27/11 Board supports early college plans

Board supports early college plans
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 9/27/11     
Reprinted with permission.

   The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education passed a resolution Monday night in support of continued planning for a high school that Alamance-Burlington Schools and Elon University would operate together.

   The board approved the resolution in a 5-0 vote. Board Chairwoman Jackie Cole and members Mary Erwin, Brad Evans, Kristen Moffitt and Patsy Simpson voted for the resolution. Steve Van Pelt, the board’s vice chairman, was absent. Board member Tony Rose, an Elon employee, did not vote.

   Saying he desired to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, Rose added recusing himself “should not be viewed as a lack of support for this process.”

   The school system and university have been planning the school since 2010, with details becoming public this summer. With the tentative name of University High School, it is described in a planning committee’s feasibility report as “a nontraditional high school setting for high-performing students.” Students would graduate with both a high school diploma and as much as two years of credit toward a college degree.

   Tentative plans call for the schoo lto open in August 2012.

   Board attorney Trey Allen said a more formal agreement between the school system and Elon will be required. He and Kent Byrd, the system’s executive director of secondary school leadership, said Monday night’s vote allows preparation of that agreement, which will also require approval from the university’s board of trustees.

   The school board’s resolution authorizes Superintendent Lillie Cox to work with university representatives on an agreement.

   Dan Anderson, assistant vice president and director of university relations at Elon, said Monday the school’s trustees have a meeting set for Oct. 21 and 22. Anderson said the board could consider approving an agreement with the school system during a teleconference meeting at an earlier date if necessary.

   Before the school board’s vote, Simpson said she wanted to be sure the board didn’t limit its ability to shape the final stages of planning between the school system and university. She asked about a part of the resolution saying the school board supports creating the high school “in accordance with the general principles and guidelines” outlined in the feasibility committee’s report.

   Simpson, who was part of the committee, said she didn’t want the resolution to require the board to go along with everything in the report if it decided one or more changes would be beneficial. Allen said the board could make changes, as long as they were accepted by the university.

   “You’re saying, ‘We like this idea and we want the project to move forward, but we’re not actually approving an agreement yet,’” he said.

   Simpson said she’s particularly interested in financial aspects of the agreement.

   The report projects annual operating costs would range from $650,000 to $700,000 for grades 9 and 10.

   The Alamance-Burlington system would be responsible for those costs. That would include hiring a principal, counselor, administrative assistant and teachers, along with expenses for materials and “small equipment.” The amount also includes teachers for some high school courses students would take in 11th grade.

   The university would cover the projected $500,000 required each year for grades 11 and 12. That would include hiring a faculty director, the equivalent of five teaching faculty members to account for additional students taking college courses, and maintenance of the school.