Tuesday, April 16, 2024

NHCS to keep Mosley open, abandons newcomer school idea in wake of commissioner comments

The DA along with Sheriff have requested an outside investigation into allegations against New Hanover County Schools administration. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
NHCS Superintendent Charles Foust announced he will not be moving forward with closing the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley on Jan. 25, 2024. (Port City Daily/file photo)

WILMINGTON — New Hanover County Schools is not closing the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley and will not be exploring a potential newcomers school. 

READ MORE: NHCS facing ‘uncomfortable’ budget cuts this year, including Career Readiness Academy at Mosley

According to a press release on Jan. 25, NHCS Superintendent Charles Foust notified the board of education.

The Mosley school building contains three programs: a pre-K program, a transition program for young adults with special needs, and the Career Readiness high school program. All three will remain open next year.

The move comes after several weeks of criticisms from the board of education, whose members claim they were surprised by the move. Parents of Mosley scholars and, most recently, local officials also have joined the choir of opposition.

On Monday, New Hanover County Commissioner Dane Scalise brought forth a motion to oppose closing the academy and opening a “newcomer school,” though it did not gain a second from fellow commissioners.

In early December, parents received a letter stating the “high school program at the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley will end” after the 2023-2024 school year. The enrolled students were to transfer to their districted high school or apply to a different specialty program.

According to the district, the closure is a result of low enrollment in the program, a lack of certification opportunities, and the cease of one funding stream for the program. According to Chief Financial Officer Ashley Sutton, one of the grants funding the program, worth $350,000, is ending.

The district is also looking at a $10 million shortfall for the 2024-2025 budget. The Career Readiness Academy costs around $1.3 million to operate, according to the school district.

Scalise told Port City Daily Thursday he thought the commissioners had an obligation to provide funding to keep the school open. He said he was concerned about the abrupt way the closure was announced and the amount of parents and students who said they were benefiting from the school.

“We made a promise to them in effect, whenever we told them you get to go to this school, that if they went there, they would be able to graduate from there,” Scalise said. “That’s an implicit promise that I believe that we made. And so I don’t think that it’s appropriate for us to tell them we’re shutting it down and you got to go somewhere else.”

Scalise opined he thought the district was misrepresenting student performance at the school to make closing the academy more palatable. PCD reached out to each commissioner on Scalise’s proposal; Commissioner Jonathan Barfield was the only other to respond.

“Personally, I think [CRA at Mosley] needs to remain open as an identifiable resource for those of the utilizing today,” Barfield said. “I think it’s been effective, but ultimately that’s a decision the school board’s going to have to make.”

Barfield didn’t go as far to say the commissioners should provide additional funding for the academy, as NHCS has not presented its budget priorities nor has the county begun its budget process. New Hanover County funds 25% of the NHCS budget. Though, he pointed out he has always been in favor of obliging the school district’s requests for additional funds throughout the years.

Scalise’s proposal was two-parts, the other being his stance against a “newcomer school.”

Chief Academic Officer Patrice Faison introduced the idea to the school board at its agenda review on Nov. 28. The school would serve as a transition academy for students with English as a second language. Faison said the school would accommodate the growing number of multilingual students in the district.

Scalise rejected that observation. 

“I do not accept the school administration’s claim that because of existing populations, because it’s inevitable, we have no choice but to do this,” Scalise said.

He said the school system is not set up to operate a school that would help bring in more “refugee,” or “immigrant” individuals into New Hanover County without commissioner consultation and public input. He said Guilford County’s newcomer school, which the NHCS would use as a model, attracted more refugees and immigrants when it opened, citing its need to open a second location in September as proof.

“It became so successful that it ultimately became a beacon for further refugee resettlement,” Scalise said.

He elaborated that he thought policy leaders’ priorities should be on current residents.

“I am a highly empathetic person; I want nothing but the best for every human on the planet,” Scalise said. “However, there are 8 billion people on the earth and New Hanover County is not set up to take care of them all.”

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