North Carolina New Schools Shuts Down, Cites Rapid Growth

(Image: North Carolina New School Foundation)

(Image: North Carolina New School Foundation)

A nonprofit located in North Carolina that puts in millions of dollars of funding into helping teachers and principals at close to 100 high schools in the state recently announced it will be closing its doors.

A spokeswoman for North Carolina New Schools said the organization shut down at the end of last week as a result of “financial issues focused on cash flow.”

“NC New Schools had grown rapidly in recent years,” communications director Kimberly Hofman-McEnaney wrote. “(The) business model of negotiating fees for services with schools, subsidized by donations and grants, ultimately proved to be unsustainable.”

All employees, including 70 full-time and two part-time, were notified of the decision just one day before the announcement was made, and then were paid through the week.  President Tony Habit resigned last Wednesday and has not responded to any requests for comments.

Jeffrey Corbett, president of the organization’s board of directors, said the group had seen a dramatic increase in a short period of time and the funding was unable to keep up with the expansion.  He added that the group experienced cash flow problems directly related to growth and the speed of that growth.

The North Carolina New Schools Project first received an $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, meant to restructure secondary education through the creation of smaller high schools.  While that funding eventually came to an end, New Schools was able to continue its work with funding from various other sources, including federal and private foundation grants as well as state money, reports Lynn Bonner for The News And Observer.

In addition, the organization increased its focus to include early college high schools, regional specialty high schools, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) schools, as well as the coaching of teachers and principals.

The organization has received millions of dollars in donations and federal grants since its founding in 2003.  Among other donations, $26 million came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in addition to a $15 million grant in 2011 and a $20 million grant in 2014 from the US Department of Education.

NC New Schools worked with high schools across the country in an effort to create and support early college high schools.  The hybrid model combined high school with the first two years of college.  Staff members were placed in schools in order to help train and offer support to teachers and principals.

Deputy State Superintendent Rebecca Garland said that the organization has worked with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for over ten years:

“We really have not had a chance to assess the impact yet,” Garland said. “We actually have employees from DPI that are housed there (at NC New Schools). We have four positions that have been there since the beginning of the early college movement.”

While Garland said that the four employees would keep their jobs, they will be relocated to DPI’s headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

Garland added that the organization had done “outstanding work in terms of changing classroom practice and helping to improve student outcomes in early colleges.”