Ashley Park Principal Meaghan Loftus cringes when the school board reviews data on her school. She knows it looks awful.
Ashley Park got a D last year, based on student performance on state exams. Almost one-third of students were suspended, some so often that it pushed the school’s suspension rate to among the highest in CMS.
Yet students, parents and community volunteers lined up Tuesday to beg the school board not to change a place that feels like a family.
“What we see is the excellence and the passion and the love that these teachers, principals and volunteers have for these students,” said David Docusen, a pastor who joined a group urging the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board to preserve Ashley Park with its full range of ages.
The board has been poring over data on the eight neighborhood elementary/middle schools as members study a plan to return some or all of them to traditional elementary or middle schools.
Loftus, who became principal at the start of the last school year, says the numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the full story.
For instance: Last year she says the school wasn’t staffed to handle behavior issues, including three troubled fourth-graders who were suspended so often they drove up the school rate. This year those children are all in new settings that can handle their behavioral issues, and she has hired two behavior specialists and a counselor to help misbehaving students get back on track without getting kicked out.
Suspensions are down dramatically: 100 students have received 163 suspensions, compared with 162 students who had been suspended a total of 411 times at the same time last school year.
And while proficiency on reading and math remain low, Ashley Park students exceeded the state target for growth last year. Loftus says the combined setting, with a small group of middle school students, lets her faculty have a personal connection to each student. Sixth-grade teachers are already visiting fifth-grade classes to talk about next year’s academic challenges.
Superintendent Ann Clark cited Ashley Park as an example of a school that requires a look behind the data. At a recent board meeting, member Ericka Ellis-Stewart asked: “Would the results that we’re netting out be good enough for your child?”
Clark said she absolutely would, if she had a child: “Ashley Park has some of the most talented teachers in this district.”