Griffin: School Board made “right decision” in closing Cordova

By: By Christine S. Carroll - Staff Writer

HAMLET — With tears and laughter, four Richmond Senior High School students gave School Board members a glowing report Monday on the addition of former Cordova School students to the Raider mix.

One said she had changed her career plans as a result, in order to aid those with special needs. Another found that “being a Raider was about much more” than she had ever thought. And a third pronounced the experience just “fabulous.”

New Raider Justyce Stevenson spoke of eating breakfast with new friends, and reading books “until it’s time to do work.” But the best thing about attending Richmond Senior High School, the former Cordova student said, was “exercise with the football players.”

Star volleyball player Altman Griffin said she had changed her career plans in order to work with special-needs clients.

“Despite your worries and hesitations,” she told board members, “you made the right decision.”

Sniffling back tears, Bri Baysek said that meeting new classmates “will be one of the biggest things that I will miss” about high school, and former athlete Chase Coultard said that he found that by coaching others on weight training, “kids I never even knew (were now) some of my best friends.”

To further dispel any doubt the move had been a success, Amber Watkins — the district’s director of programs for special-needs students — then showed slide after slide of smiling students attending prom, participating in and working the Special Olympics in Raider Stadium, and performing in arts events.

Last fall, approximately 60 former Cordova students began classes at the high school, as well as Monroe Avenue Elementary, Cordova Middle and the Ninth-Grade Academy.

“We are preparing them for the world.” Watkins said then. “We’re teaching them to be part of the population.”

The decision wasn’t made without opposition last spring. Several parents and grandparents, including incoming School Board member Pat Campbell, pleaded with the board to keep students at the school they were used to, and one board member — Jerry Ethridge — voted against the move.

One of the last schools in the state dedicated to teaching only the most medically and emotionally fragile of students, Cordova School closed for good at the end of last school year.

At its meeting Monday, the board also:

• Welcomed new schools Police Chief Ricardo Leak, who presented 2017-18 statistics for crimes committed on school grounds: 60 assaults, 28 larcenies, 14 drug-related crimes, six weapons violations and 16 automobile wrecks.

“Our mission is to bring those numbers down,” he said, and improve relations between law enforcement and the school community.

• Celebrated Rockingham Middle School seventh-grader Cameron Hines, who was named a Duke TIP state and grand winner. Cameron earned a 21 on her ACT to win the position; but even better, she scored 32 of 36 points on the reading portion of the test.

• Congratulated L.J. Bell Elementary School for becoming one of 11 Lighthouse Schools in North Carolina through its “Leader in Me” program. The program reportedly has increased student ownership of learning, as well as parental involvement at the school.

• Bade goodbye to board members Irene Aiken, who was not re-elected after eight years of service, and Don Greene, who called it quits after four. Both, said Superintendent Cindy Goodman, had been “smart, wise board members” whose work was appreciated.

The board’s July meeting actually will be in June, at noon June 28. Newly elected members Campbell and Daryl Mason will join veterans Bobbie Sue Ormsby and Joe Richardson in being sworn in.

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By Christine S. Carroll

Staff Writer

Reach Christine Carroll at [email protected]

Reach Christine Carroll at [email protected]