JEFFERSON — In October’s regular meeting of the Ashe County Board of Education, Finance Officer Amanda Coldiron shared with the board that Ashe Early College lost about $75,000 in funding for its second year of operation.
Coldiron said the reason behind the loss in funding was due to Ashe County’s move from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 county, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce’s County Distress Ranking.
On this scale, Tier 1 represents counties that are the most economically distressed when compared to others. Tiers are calculated according to four criteria: average unemployment rate, median household income, percentage growth in population and adjusted property tax base per capita.
Although the move up to a Tier 2 ranking reflects economic growth for Ashe County, the shift ultimately left Ashe Early College with about $200,000 in state funding overall, according to ACS Superintendent Phyllis Yates.
In addition, a miscommunication related to enrollment requirements between Ashe County Schools and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Comprehensive Innovative High School program, which provided the grant received by ACS to fund the early college, led to a loss in state-funded salary compensation for Ashe Early College’s principal, Elaine Cox.
Yates said the initial understanding between ACS and CIHS was that Ashe Early College needed to have 100 students enrolled by the start of its second year, which the early college had met.
It wasn’t until recently that ACS learned that the enrollment requirement actually needed to be met by the end of the first school year, when the early college had around 60 students enrolled, Yates said.
Yates added that despite the loss in funding through CIHS for Cox’s salary because of the miscommunication, a deal was made with DPI’s Financial Services to cover the salary through separate means.
“This whole thing, in the end, is only probably going to be down about $40,000, which is better than what it was,” Yates said.
Yates added that the loss of funding did not negatively affect operations at the early college, and state funding through the CIHS programs will return to normal for the early college’s third year as it now meets the enrollment requirements.
Currently, Ashe Early College has 101 students enrolled with instruction provided by four teachers, a college liaison and a counselor, Cox said.
“I won’t say it’s a burden — sometimes it’s a challenge,” Cox said. “As we gain more students, we’ll gain more teachers.”
Cox added that most of the early college’s 15 juniors are taking more college courses than high school classes, which are handled by Wilkes Community College instructors.
“We’re having a great second year, and things are just moving right along,” Cox said. “We’re so glad to see the progress of students. I think that they are well pleased with where they are at this point.”