Southside-Ashpole Elementary welcomed students back to campus late last month with a host of changes: New administrators, a more rigorous curriculum, less red tape and an extended school day.

The Robeson County school is the first campus taking part in the new Innovative School District, one of the boldest experiments in North Carolina education.

Southside-Ashpole reports up to a new superintendent and is run by a team of charter school veterans in the TeamCFA network. The idea is to create a blueprint for a school turnaround that can be used in other chronically under-performing campuses across the state.

“It’s important that we have the flexibility to do things a little differently,” TeamCFA chief executive Tony Helton said on the latest episode of the Longleaf Podcast. “If you keep doing things exactly the same way, you’re going to get exactly the same results. And that’s not the result we want.”

Listen to the full podcast at the link below or on your podcast platform of choice. Our other guest is former Rep. Rob Bryan, who helped author the legislation creating the Innovative School District. While there was initially a lot of blowback from traditional school advocates, he’s optimistic that the district will be a big win for

“The struggle is often, ‘We feel like we can get it better ourselves. If you’ll just give us more money, we’ll fix it,'” Bryan said about what he’s gleaned from Innovative School District skeptics. “Unfortunately, that’s not a good long-term solution. We’ve got to be more creative with the dollars we have.”

Cover photo by Southside-Ashpole Elementary via Facebook.

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