MOREHEAD CITY — Despite a last ditch appeal by school board member Melissa Ehlers, the Marine Science and Technologies Early College High School will open Monday, Aug. 17 without a freshman class.
During the Carteret County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Ms. Ehlers read a motion supporting the reinstatement of the freshman class, which was cut when the board voted June 2 to open with only sophomores and juniors for the 2020-21 academic year due to budget concerns.
Ms. Ehlers, the sole board member who voted against cutting freshmen in June, said, “I move that we empower the superintendent to make the necessary preparations and arrangements so as to facilitate the matriculation of a MaST Early College High School freshman class as soon as practicable in the upcoming 2020-21 school year.”
Her motion died due to a lack of a second.
Ms. Ehlers, during the meeting held via Zoom, pointed out that since the board voted in June, the state has allocated $200,000 for the school’s operation.
“That funding removes the stated impetus for this board’s June 2 vote to suspend the incoming freshman class,” she said. “The non-recurring nature of this funding is no different than the bulk of the state-allocated money which this county uses year in and year out to operate its incredible school system.”
Ms. Ehlers, who will leave the board in November after opting not to seek reelection, asked if members were planning to close the school after this year.
“I appeal to you not to close this school. Are you going to keep the school open?” Ms. Ehlers asked.
While not responding directly to her question, BOE Chairperson John McLean said, “I for one am not comfortable with one-time nonrecurring money.”
Ms. Ehlers then said the board should make more effort to support the school, which opened in 2018 on the campus of Carteret Community College and allows students to gain high school and college credits simultaneously. MaST opened with 50 freshmen, with original plans to add 50 new freshmen each year until the school reached 200 students in grades nine through 12.
After anticipated state funding never materialized last year, the board had voted to close the school, which set off a firestorm of protests from MaST parents and supporters. After parents filed legal action against the board, members agreed to keep the school open for the 2019-20 academic year.
Prior to Ms. Ehlers reading her motion Tuesday, county school system Finance Officer Kathy Carswell outlined the school’s budget for 2020-21. She said even with the $200,000 in state funding, the school would operate in 2020-21 with a $78,476 deficit. The deficit will be made up from the school system’s fund balance.
The school’s total budget for 2020-21 is $455,958. Of that, $245,958 comes from county commissioners, with $200,000 in state Cooperative Innovative High School funding and $10,000 in state textbook funding.
There will be four teachers in addition to a guidance counselor, clerical position, a part-time social worker and a new principal, Cory Johnson. He replaces former Principal DeAnne Rosen, who resigned in July to accept a position as curriculum coordinator at Tiller School, a charter school in Beaufort.
Since the meeting was broadcast on Zoom for the public, parents could only make public comment by emailing statements in by noon Tuesday. Two parents, Steve and Jaymie Kerstein, who had a rising freshmen scheduled to attend MaST, sent in comments supporting reinstating the freshman class, which were read during the meeting by Assistant Superintendent Blair Propst.
Following the meeting, Ms. Kerstein, in an email to the News-Times, expressed her disappointment at the board’s lack of action to reinstate freshmen.
“I feel the lack of action on Melissa’s motion speaks volumes on the rest of the board’s prejudice of MaST,” Ms. Kerstein said.
She further said the early college high school “provides a supportive yet firm environment for those students who might not otherwise attend college.
“These students are more likely to attend class, complete courses designed to prepare them for entering college, have fewer suspensions, earn more college credits, and graduate high school,” she continued. “As a result, many of those students do end up going on to college because their mindset has been changed from that of a typical high school kid, to that of a young adult who’s been prepared for the rigors of college.”
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.