‘MaST’ early college program remains open after final board vote

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UPDATE: Monday night, Carteret County school board members called for a special meeting to discuss the future of “MaST,” otherwise known as Marine Science and Technologies Early College High School.

Back in June, the board of education voted 4-2 to cut the program due to funding. 

At the time, board members were split between using county and state dollars to fund the program or allocate it towards teaching positions. The undetermined state budget was also a topic of concern.

Board members Travis Day is one of two board members who has stuck with his decision to keep MaST closed. 

“From the very beginning I wasn’t very convinced the extra costs were justified,” said Day. 

He expressed concerns about uncertainty surrounding the state budget, loss of teaching posistions and classroom sizes in public schools. 

“Rather than concentrating on and getting it for this group I’d like to see it more spread out more equitably across the board floor,” said Day. 

Kathryn Chadwick was the second board member who voted to not go forward with keeping MaST open. She suggested funding should go towards East Carteret High School and teaching positions. 

But board member Clark Jenkins had a change of heart Monday night.

Jenkins initially voted to keep the program closed. He said listening to the students fight for their school had an impact on him. 

“We had a platform. We had something that was already built and why tear that down, and why not create something better,” said Jenkins. 

A resolution presented by the school’s attorney states MaST will remain open for the 2019-2020 school year. If state funding is not guaranteed for the program this school year, Carteret Community College will pay for the school to continue running.

“At least we have a fallback, insurance plan…if it doesn’t come through at least for this one year,” said Day. 

Kathy Bernstein, a counselor at MaST is confident state leaders will include the program in the state budget. 

“We’re going to be fine because I believe that the state wants the education model to move forward,” said Bernstein. 

The Carteret County Public Schools central office was filled with tears of happiness and excitement when board members came to a decision. 

“Shock went through my body and in my mind I said yes our family stays together,” said one student. 

Day says board members will have to regroup to speak about the teaching positions and classroom sizes. 

MaST will open as scheduled on August 7. 

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Carteret County Board of Education has decided to close an early college program. 

Board members called for a special meeting Thursday afternoon to consider funding MaST otherwise known as Marine Science and Technologies Early College High School. 

High school students are able to receive college credit and certifications. 

In a 4-3 vote, board members decided to cut the program due to funding. The program runs on state and county dollars. 

Board members discussed for about 45 minutes whether state funding would be approved for the early college program for the upcoming school year. 

Board member Travis Day said “the decision on state funding will likely not be confirmed until well after the school year starts.” 

Melissa Ehlers, a board member who was absent in Thursday’s special meeting argued extra time was necessary to make a decision on whether to close the program or not. 

“The decision to close down MaST is premature based on incomplete information. I can see no further harm in waiting to allow for a clearer picture.” 

Monday night, county commissioners voted to keep the money allocated for MaST to be used towards teaching positions in the county. Day said last year county commissioners agreed to fund the program with the assumption state funding was going to be provided. 

Day argued the delay of the decision would affect the hiring of teachers. 

With uncertainty and guarantee on state funding this year, a majority of board members voted to cut the program. 

Parents and students packed the Carteret County Schools administration building with signs protesting to keep MaST open. Many said they are furious with the decision. 

“They have failed our children in this county in my opinion,” said parent Lindsay Webb. 

No public comment was allowed during Thursday’s meeting. 

100 students were enrolled in MaST. 

Some parents say they will resort to homeschooling this upcoming school year. 

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