I-SS early college students begin new school year
BY KARISSA MILLER
Students returned with smiles on their faces and principals, counselors and teachers all reported smooth sailing as Iredell-Statesville Schools’ three early colleges opened the new school year.
Monday marked the first day of class for the district’s 588 early college students. Enrollment figures for the schools include:
• Agriculture and Science Early College (ASEC): 103 students;
• Collaborative College and Technology (CCTL): 200 students; and,
• Crossroads Arts and Science Early College (CASE): 285 students.
The ASEC program, which is housed at North Iredell High School, is new this year.
“It’s fun to be at a new school. It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up: two years of college paid for,” said ASEC junior Claudia Matthews.
ASEC Principal Billy Wells was equally excited, claiming he loves the new school just as much as the students.
“We had a great day today. A few glitches with buses and students missing buses ... but we worked it out. We sent someone out to pick the kids up,” Wells explained. “We had perfect attendance -- all students and staff.”
Seventeen students are in the Agribusiness pathway program, while the remaining students are college-transfer track students, Wells said.
The Agribusiness technology pathway allows students transfer to a partnering Ag institution and earn a bachelor’s degree in two years upon completion of the early college program.
More than 50 percent of ASEC students hail from the northern end of Iredell County. Since students are from different areas of the county -- and one is from out of state -- the staff is focused on uniting them.
“This is a historic day for I-SS and for all of North Carolina,” Superintendent Brady Johnson said. “It’s the first school in North Carolina to have an Agriculture focus.”
CCTL Principal Teri Hutchens said that she had around 200 students on Monday. Hutchens said that were getting settled into their classes and that the day moved along without any problems.
CASE had around 285 students Monday.
During an afternoon assembly, Principal Alicia Eller told students about some funding challenges that the early college will face this school year.
“With our budget this year, the state has cut $120,000 in our funding,” she said.
Loud boos from students resonated throughout the auditorium; meanwhile, one student yelled, “that sucks.”
Eller responded, “It does. It affects you and that’s serious. It affects what opportunities that you have here.”
“That means I have to really be tight about certain things. It means you have fewer class options, fewer text book options, fewer online options and those things that are expensive,” Eller added.
It’ll be a big change, she said, before reassuring the students that she’s going to be frugal and find ways to make the school’s money go further.
CASE’s graduation rate for this past school year was 100 percent, well above the state average of 85.9 percent. It’s never been below 95 percent.
While CASE has consistently performed above the state average, Eller feels like the school is being punished as the state is reducing early college funding this year. She’s not sure why.
“Our criteria for our enrollment is 80 percent of our students are at-risk, low income or underrepresented in college. They need us to be able to go to college,” Eller explained. “We’ve shared with the state some reports and our student success stories. It’s unfortunate that this is happening.”