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Neuse Charter School director steps down

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SMITHFIELD — After 3 1/2 years on the job, Neuse Charter School Executive Director Susan Pullium is resigning effective Jan. 1.

“The time has come for me to pursue other opportunities,” Pullium wrote in a resignation letter to Neuse Charter board Chairwoman Dawn Dixon.

Pullium wrote that Neuse Charter was in trouble when her tenure began.

“It was being placed on financial probation and was struggling to clearly communicate its unique purpose. During my time as your leader, and with the support of our great staff, we’ve been able to turn that around,” she wrote. “Our school is financially sound and has the right policies in place to be able to sustain our successful trajectory for our students and community; and, we’ve reshaped the culture, strengthened the commitment to academic excellence and enhanced our vision and focus to better prepare our students for college and career.”

With an overall score of 69, Neuse Charter received a C grade for the 2018-19 school year on its annual report card from the state Department of Public Instruction and did not meet its growth expectations.

The reading score was 68 and the math score was 63. The overall score and achievement level were above the state average but the growth score was 57 compared to the state average of 77.

The school has also been the target of complaints to the DPI regarding its treatment of exceptional children.

On Sept. 10, Patrick Heavey filed a complaint with the department alleging Neuse Charter failed to meet its legal obligations to his autistic son Owen under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Sherry Thomas, director of the department’s exceptional children division, responded to the complaint in a Sept. 16 letter to Heavey and Pullium.

Thomas said the Department of Public Instruction cited seven issues that would be investigated and findings would be released on or before Nov. 9. The report will contain a corrective action plan if officials determine Neuse Charter is not in compliance.

State dispute resolution consultant Deborah Throm was assigned to investigate Heavey’s complaints.

On Sept. 23, the state received a second complaint from the Heavey family regarding Neuse Charter School, in which Heavey alleged Neuse Charter didn’t follow its policies regarding confidentiality and consent, specifically Neuse Charter’s disclosure of Owen’s school records to evaluation providers.

Thomas said an investigation will be conducted and a final report on that matter will be sent on or before Nov. 22. Throm is also investigating this matter.

Thomas encouraged Heavey and Neuse Charter to engage in dispute resolution on the local level to resolve the complaint. The state can provide a mediator if requested.

Pullium declined comment on both the school’s scores and the state investigations. She said she couldn’t discuss Owen’s situation without Heavey’s permission.

“I suggest that you get Mr. Heavey to sign a consent giving us permission to speak to you about Owen,” said Pullium. “If you obtain that, I’d be more than happy to discuss matters with you.”

Owen is now attending Learn With the Best, a Raleigh private school for children with special needs. He started in August.