MaST Parents File Preliminary Injunction to Halt School’s Closure

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The latest in the MaST saga includes a lawsuit filed by parents against the Board of Education. MaST is short for the Marine Science & Technology Early College High School, which is in jeopardy of closing after only one year.

A parent of two MaST students, Andrea Beasley, hired attorney Stacy Gahagan to represent the parents and students, according to reporting by WCTI 12.

Parents represented by Gahagan filed a lawsuit in Carteret County Superior Court seeking a preliminary injunction to stop closing procedures of MaST along with their allegation that due process rights under the state constitution were violated, the report said.

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Beasley shared a timeline of her experience throughout the development of a decision about the future of MaST at the public hearing.

“June 27: A new special meeting is called, as it seems the board of education realized they illegally voted to close the school,” she said. “None of the statutes were followed as required by the state of North Carolina to close a school. During this meeting the Board of Education never rescinded the earlier vote but did lay out plans to follow correct procedure for school closure, which included a case study meant to get an impartial view as to whether MaST should stay open or be closed. All the while the chairman continued to tell us that this was just procedural, the school would be closed,” she said.

The North Carolina State Constitution section 115C-109.6 titled “Impartial due process hearings” states: “The State Board, through the Exceptional Children Division, and the State Office of Administrative Hearings shall develop and enter into a binding memorandum of understanding to ensure compliance with the statutory and regulatory procedures and timelines applicable under IDEA to due process hearings and to hearing officers’ decisions, and to ensure the parties’ due process rights to a fair and impartial hearing. This memorandum of understanding shall be amended if subsequent changes to IDEA are made.”

Gahagan handed a copy of the legal papers to Neil Whitford, legal counsel to the Board of Education, immediately following the July 24 public hearing, according to a report by the Carteret County News-Times.

The public hearing included comment by MaST parents, students, and support staff, and it took place two days after a special school board committee released its study of MaST in the form of an 813-page document.

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The Board of Education voted to close MaST in a 4-3 decision in June. The school was originally planned to open using funds from the state budget that fell through at the last minute, leaving the county commissioners to fund the difference. After the school’s first year, county commissioners voted to eliminate MaST from the budget without knowledge of whether the state will provide funding for the new fiscal year. The state budget currently awaits approval following Governor Cooper’s veto.

According to a public notice from the Board of Education, a special meeting will be held on Monday, July 29 at 6 p.m. to consider the question of closing MaST. The notice says that the board will take such action at this meeting as it deems appropriate.

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Elizabeth Moore is a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in journalism and Spanish. In her time as a reporter for The Daily Tar Heel, she has covered activism and protests following racial and religious conflicts as well as student and professor accomplishments. At Chapel Hill, she is an executive leader and barista at The Meantime, a student-run non-profit coffeeshop, and a member of the club swim team. While living in Beaufort this summer, she is working at Black Sheep restaurant and writing for the Eastern Beacon.