LUMBERTON — Parents concerned about a proposal to transfer fourth-grade students from Tanglewood and Rowland-Norment elementary schools to Carroll Middle School say they want a meeting with the full Board of Education and school administrators to find out why the elementary students are being transferred.
About 150 people — parents and educators — attended a Tanglewood PTA meeting Tuesday in hopes of finding out information about the proposal and to air their concerns after the school board on Saturday approved the transfers at its retreat. The transfers would take place before the next school year.
Two board members attended Tuesday’s meeting — Chairman Mike Smith and Dwayne Smith, whose district includes Tanglewood and Carroll Middle schools — which ended without any resolution. The chairman defended the absence of board members and administrators by noting that some were at another event that had been planned for a couple of months.
At the board’s retreat, Dwayne Smith was joined by board members Bosco Locklear and Severeo Kerns in opposing the plan. During that meeting, school administrators supplied information stating that there are 114 third-grade students at Tanglewood and 87 at Rowland-Norment who would be transferred. Walter Jackson, an assistant superintendent, said five teachers from Tanglewood and four teachers from Rowland-Norment would also move to the middle school.
Dwayne Smith repeatedly told the crowd that he is not against transfers, but worries about overcrowding. He said that unless the school district’s policy for transfers is enforced, any space that becomes available by moving out the fourth-graders will most likely be filled by transfer students from other schools.
Dwayne Smith said that he was never consulted by other board members about their plans to transfer the fourth-grade to the middle school.
“It’s plain and simple,” he said. “There are people trying to make decisions for us in our district and precinct that have not even been in our schools.
“The problem is we (board members) are not respecting each other. This is unfair to our community and kids. … I think this is a decision not being made fairly.”
Parents raised many questions about the proposal, most of which could not be answered by either board member.
‘This is a hasty decision,” said Josh Whitley, a parent. “If we are going to do this we should be looking at all options. I really don’t know of the urgency.”
Several parents said that it would not be in the best interest of fourth-grade students, most of whom are 9 or 10 years old, to be placed in a middle school. They argued that the younger students are not sufficiently mature to prosper in a middle school.
James Bass, who has a child in kindergarten, called it “reckless” and “irresponsible” for school officials to move forward with the transfers without a long-range plan.
“This seems like a haphazard solution,” Bass said. “There needs to be research and a plan that involves input from all constituents.”
Some parents criticized the timing of the board’s announcement. They said that their children are upset knowing that they will be leaving their elementary schools when the new school year begins.
“It is a shame this came out in the paper one week before the kids take the EOG,” said a parent who didn’t identify herself.
Hayley Howard, the mother of a 9-year-old student at Rowland-Norment, said the news devastated her son.
“He saw the news in the newspaper on Sunday and came to me and asked why he can’t stay for the fourth grade here (Rowland-Norment),” Howard said. “This is just before the EOGs, and now he has more on his plate to worry about.”
At the suggestion of Dwayne Smith, those present at Tuesday’s meeting said they want to schedule a meeting with the full board and school administrators.
“I think these chairs need to be filled,” Smith said, pointing to empty chairs on the stage in the cafeteria that had been placed there for board members. “They need to give us a reason why they are doing this. We deserve answers and we are not getting them.”
No date has yet been set for the meeting. Many of those in the audience said they would attend the June meeting of the school board when a vote would make the transfer official.