As part of a larger initiative for all New Hanover County high schools to offer specialty programs for students, the New Hanover County Board of Education unanimously approved the concept of a marine science program at Eugene Ashley High School paired with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Sandra Cecelski, a teacher at Ashley High School, has been teaching marine science for 25 years and gave a presentation about what the new marine science program would mean for students.
She said students are currently able to choose from two course offerings, including oceanography, honors oceanography and honors marine science, after completing basic science courses.
“Many students do sign up for both,” Cecelski said.
The new program will begin with 25 senior students in its pilot year, kicking off with a weeklong summer enrichment program in Summer 2013 and ending in Spring 2014, following a full year of college-level courses, resulting in college credits.
“It’s going to start as a focus and build itself into an academy,” Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley said.
In the future, when more schools in the county have specialty programs, students would be able to apply to programs they are interested in at other schools, Markley said.
Member Ed Higgins questioned the length of the commitment to the program, whether students would be able to opt out and the future capability of all students being grouped together in the same area of the school as part of an academy.
Member Tammy Covil requested data showing how successful graduates of the marine science programs at UNCW and Cape Fear Community College are in finding jobs post-graduation and whether the jobs are contributing to the local economy.
Johnson Akinleye, UNCW associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the university’s goal is not to simply provide a workforce for North Carolina, but he does not know a graduate who has come out of the program without a job.
Another MOU with CFCC will be presented at a future school board meeting for the marine science program.
Board members also unanimously approved a resolution opposing school building ownership transfer from local school boards to county commissioners as a result of possible legislation transferring public school building ownership, construction and maintenance from the Wake County Board of Education to the Wake County Board of Commissioners. The transfer would also allow the commissioners to provide capital funding to charter schools.
Member Derrick Hickey said legislation putting the power in the hands of county commissioners is contrary to the public’s best interest, because commissioners would be taking on something they are not going to understand as well as the school board.
“If we don’t own our buildings then we can’t efficiently operate our school system,” Markley said, adding that fortunately in New Hanover, the school board and county commissioners have a good relationship.