Neuse Charter School students can now attend a college fair Monday at Smithfield-Selma High School.
Earlier this month, Neuse Charter asked SSS if about 40 seniors and juniors could attend the fair, but SSS principal Michael Taylor said no. He told the Smithfield Herald he was concerned the fair would become crowded; if too many students attended, individual students would not have as much time to speak with college representatives. He also said Neuse Charter is separate from the county’s public school system and its opportunities.
The college fair’s host is an organization called the Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers, or CACRAO for short. An official with the group read the article in the Smithfield Herald and contacted both schools to find a way to include Neuse Charter.
A typical CACRAO fair brings multiple high schools to one campus. The Sept. 30 college fair at Smithfield-Selma High will also welcome students from North Johnston and Princeton high schools. The fairs have a time frame decided by CACRAO; Smithfield-Selma is going to attend the first 45 minutes, and North Johnston and Princeton are going to attend the second 45 minutes.
Tim Woodard, who serves on the scheduling committee for CACRAO, said he contacted Smithfield-Selma High about accommodating Neuse Charter. Since space in the SSS cafeteria was a problem, Woodard said he looked at different options, including a larger venue such as Johnston Community College. The solution that CACRAO, SSS and Neuse Charter settled on was splitting Neuse Charter’s students into two groups and sending them at different times.
“We were excited on behalf of CACRAO that we got it worked out,” Woodard said. “Both parties seemed to be OK, so that’s great.”
Woodard said CACRAO’s failure to invite Neuse Charter earlier was simply an oversight. “I guess being a new school and small school, we did not have Neuse Charter on the schedule,” he said. “So that was just an oversight on CACRAO’s part. But I assure you, we think Neuse Charter is a terrific school, and we definitely were going to work out a way to include them somehow once we found out they were a school.”
If CACRAO had known about Neuse Charter, it would have scheduled more time for the college fair at SSS, Woodard said. Next year, he plans to talk again with Taylor and Neuse Charter officials and schedule more time. “Maybe this can be a yearly thing,” Woodard said.
Taylor, the SSS principal, said Neuse Charter students can now attend the fair because Woodard requested it.
Johnston schools spokeswoman Tracey Peedin-Jones said Smithfield-Selma High doesn’t decide which schools go to its CACRAO fair. “This is a CACRAO college fair event,” she said. “This is not an event the county is in charge of, and it’s not an event that SSS is in charge of. ... So in order to be part of that, you have to follow the process with CACRAO.”
Peedin-Jones said CACRAO, not Smithfield-Selma, invites the schools that attend the SSS fair. “It was a CACRAO issue, so they are the ones that have reached out to correct it,” she said. “It was not our issue to fix or correct.”
Peedin-Jones said the responsibility for signing up for the fair rested with the guidance counselor at Neuse Charter.
Daniel Casey, guidance counselor at Neuse Charter, said he contacted CACRAO over the summer. “They advised me that due to our small number that we should try to join up with a local college, a local school, that already had a college fair set up, which is what SSS was,” he said.
Casey said he also contacted CACRAO after SSS refused the initial request but didn’t hear back for about two weeks.
Casey said he is glad Neuse Charter students can now attend the fair and that he looks forward to having a positive relationship with Smithfield-Selma High.
Taylor, the SSS principal, said the Smithfield Herald’s first article suggested animosity when none existed. “The sensationalism of the title alone led to animosity that actually did not exist between the two schools,” he said. “This has become more like an attack on me as well as the school system and my lack of empathy or sincerity for the betterment of all students across the community. It’s very disturbing, to say the least, when over the last probably six months to the last year we have accommodated Neuse Charter in several ways.”
Taylor gave specific examples, such as allowing Neuse Charter use of the SSS track and electronic timers for cross country meets. But Taylor didn’t mention these examples in an interview for the first article. To the contrary, he said: “We don’t share opportunities. Our students don’t travel to their school for events and things, and they don’t travel here.”
Joel Erby, principal of Neuse Charter’s high school, said teamwork between his school’s board, CACRAO and the Johnston schools superintendent brought a positive conclusion.
“It was just a combination of everybody reevaluating this whole situation that was brought to light by the Smithfield Herald and everybody taking a step back and just looking at really how can we be positive for everybody,” he said.
Neuse Charter will break ground on its first building this week, and Erby hopes to possibly host the college fair in the future. “Which is even more awesome because it gives other schools in Johnston County a chance to kind of look at us as somewhere where they can come collaborate with us too,” he said.