Restart Schools

Restart Schools are supported by the Strategic Reform Team within NCDPI’s Office of District & Regional Support in the Division of District & School Support Services.  DRS provides support to districts and schools through partnerships that result in every child having equitable access to a meaningful, sound basic education.

To support and encourage Restart Leaders in the school improvement process and the use of Restart flexibility to remove barriers to academic achievement.

Through continuous improvement and innovative practices, districts and schools work collaboratively to use the Restart Model as a tool to provide equitable access to a meaningful, sound, basic education for every student.


Restart Model

Restart is one of four Reform models available to LEAs to support the reform of any school designated as Recurring Low Performing. The four Reform Models available for the reform of continually low-performing schools are described under § 115C-105.37B.


§ 115C-105.37B: “Restart model, in which the State Board of Education would authorize the local board of education to operate the school with the same exemptions from statutes and rules as a charter school authorized under Article 14A of this Chapter, or under the management of an educational management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process. A school operated under this subdivision remains under the control of the local board of education, and employees assigned to the school are employees of the local school administrative unit with the protections provided by Part 3 of Article 22 of this Chapter.”

Article 14A beginning with § 115C-218: The article details the purpose and exemptions from statutes and rules for charter schools, which are the same exemptions received by all schools operating under the Restart Model. The exception being that “a school operated under [Restart] remains under the control of the local board of education…”

The Goal of the Reform Model (based on § 115C-105.37B): "To reform any school in its administrative unit which the State Board of Education has identified as one of the continually low-performing schools in North Carolina."

SBE Goals for Restart Schools: The State Board of Education’s Strategic Plan includes a goal and an objective for all Restart schools. The SBE Goal 2 is to improve school and district performance by 2025.

  • Objective 7 - Increase number of schools meeting or exceeding growth measure by subgroup​
    • Component 1 - Increase the percentage of low performing schools with direct intensive or strategic DPI support (i.e., TSI, CSI, Restart, CARES) meeting or exceeding annual expected growth overall and by subgroup.

State Board of Education Policy: Please refer to Policy DSTR-040 for specific information guiding the program based on the policy for North Carolina Reform for Recurring Low-Performing Schools.

Restart Overview  Innovation  Annual Reporting   Supports

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Successful school reform requires intentional and effective strategic planning and aims for systemic change through the removal of barriers that would otherwise hinder student achievement. Indeed, “school reform can be a complex undertaking that requires careful thought and administration” (U.S. Department of Education).

For Restart Schools, the school's authorization to use charter-like flexibility is intended to provide more opportunities for school reform. Flexibility may provide the ability to address specific needs and barriers to school improvement. The use of flexibility will result in strengthening the systems and structures of the school and in turn, result in positive student outcomes.

As of July 2023, there are 159 State Board of Education (SBE) approved Restart Schools in North Carolina across multiple cohorts (see table below).

Cohort 1: 2017-2018 55 SCHOOLS
Cohort 2: 2018-2019 47 SCHOOLS
Cohort 3: 2019-2020 13 SCHOOLS
Cohort 4: 2020-2021 16 SCHOOLS
Cohort 5: 2021-2022 17 SCHOOLS
Cohort 6: 2022-2023 1 SCHOOL
Cohort 7: 2023-2024 6 SCHOOLS
Cohort 8: 2024-2025 4 SCHOOLS
Total 159 SCHOOLS

Being a Restart School is an incredible opportunity to be innovative and think outside of the box. The Restart Team provides support for the use of charter-like flexibility and school improvement planning through a variety of professional learning opportunities.

Words and definitions important to Restart include the following:

  • Restart Definitions
    • Flexibility – Ability to operate with an exemption from a specific statute and rule.
    • Flexibility Categories – Groupings of flexibilities available to Restart schools and include Budget, Employment Requirement, Calendar, Standard Course of Study, Assessment, Class Size, etc. Please note that the categories are meant to provide a common language and there may be other uses of flexibility.
    • Flexibility Outcome – School defined measurable outcome used to identify progress in the implementation or evaluation of the flexibility.
    • Academic Gain – Academic progress of a school demonstrated through established performance assessments and the systems that impact student achievement from utilized flexibilities.

Reporting: By statute, all Restart Schools are required to submit a Restart Annual Report. All Restart Annual Reports are due by December 1st where schools report on the previous year’s implementation of Restart by describing Flexibility Outcomes and provide evidence for these outcomes. A Restart school’s first report is due the following December after their first year of implementation (December 1st during the second year of implementation).

Reporting Feedback: All Restart schools will receive feedback on their Restart Annual Report by the end of January of every year. Schools not making academic gains by Year 3 of implementation may receive required support, which begins with a review of reporting feedback provided.

Evidence of Flexibility in the School Improvement Plan (NCStar): After the initial application is approved by the SBE, schools reflect their use of flexibility within the School Improvement Plan in NCStar. To document any revision of the use of flexibility by school year, all Restart schools are required to add action steps with a reference to the flexibility used and leading to flexibility outcomes under the appropriate Indicator in the NCStar Comprehensive Report (SIP).

School Improvement Planning in NCStar: In reporting on Restart Flexibility Outcomes, schools identify an incremental goal for the use of flexibility, what each flexibility “provides for”, and what that “looks like in operation.” These descriptions detail steps that the school will take using Restart Flexibilities and must be aligned to an indicator. All Restart schools are required to add action steps leading to flexibility outcomes and referencing the flexibility used, under the appropriate Indicator in the NCStar Comprehensive Report (SIP).

School Improvement Plan (SIP) Review: All low-performing Restart Schools will receive a SIP review in NCStar by the end of February.

To support the continued authorization of Restart schools, Comprehensive Support Specialists are assigned to specific schools and can offer a range of supports such as: professional development, networking opportunities with other Restart Leaders, access to an online informational platform (Restart Canvas Hub), check-ins, assistance with the Annual Report and planning with flexibilities, School Improvement support, NCStar technical assistance, and more.

  • Reporting & School Improvement for Restart Schools Support Options

    • Restart Annual Report Review – One-on-one review of feedback on the December Restart Annual Report (if the Restart school has completed Year 1 of implementation and submitted an annual report).
    • SIP Feedback Review - One on one review of feedback on NCStar Comprehensive Plan (SIP) (If school is Low Performing)
    • Flexibility Planning Professional Development – Training on how to plan using Restart flexibilities, including brainstorming strategies, creation of incremental goals, selection of School Defined Measures, and documentation in the NCStar Comprehensive Report (SIP). This PD session is offered individually (for single Restart schools in district) or district wide (for multiple Restart schools in a district). 
    • Flexibility Planning Assistance – One-on-one planning assistance as needed using the Flexibility Planning Template
    • NCStar Platform Assistance – One-on-one assistance as you create SIPs in  NCStar.


  • Additional Key Restart Support Options
    • Professional Learning Networks (PLN) – PLNs create informal opportunities and formal structures for principals to network and work together, to encourage one another, and to celebrate Restart achievements and successes. Restart PLNs are Monthly PLN meetings where Restart school & district leaders convene to discuss best practices as related to the Restart Model & school improvement.
    • Collaborative District and Schools Guide – These collaborative meetings are sessions where individual school teams & district leaders (CFO, HR, CAO, etc.) discuss where they are with Restart implementation and how each department/office has supported schools in their use of flexibilities. Restart schools and district leaders identify procedural gaps in their use of flexibilities and discuss ways to close these gaps and to address concerns.
    • Leading and Learning Days Program – Multiple times per year, Restart Schools host other Restart Schools for a day of professional learning.
    • The purpose of the Restart Learning and Leading Days Program is to highlight & celebrate schools who are ready to showcase exemplar practices and programs with their peers including innovative uses of flexibility & sound school improvement practices; promote collaboration and resource sharing throughout the state; and foster reflection for continuous improvement.
    • Peer Network Program – Restart Principals are matched to other Restart Principals to connect virtually or in-person. The purpose of the Restart Principal Peer Support Program is to connect Restart Leaders to one another for the purpose of building collegiality, gaining a Restart thought partner & confidant, and providing opportunities for growth between Restart Peer Supports and of Restart Schools. A Peer Support is someone with whom Restart Leaders can build a relationship based on trust as they navigate school improvement using Restart Flexibility.

Division of District and Regional Support Restart Contacts

Reform Model Lead: Primary contact for all district level communication for Restart     
Name: Garber, Julie     
Phone: 984-236-2111

Comprehensive Support Specialists:

Name Assigned Quadrants Email Phone
Owen, Suzanne Sandhills, Southeast     984-236-2132
Fonville, Tawanna Northwest, Piedmont-Triad  
Sasser, Natalie Western, Southwest 984-236-2138
Taranto, Michael Northeast, North Central     984-236-2128