HALIFAX COUNTY, N.C. — Amid first day of school jitters, Principal Lykisa Coby has a lot on her plate.

What You Need To Know

  • Halifax is one of the five counties that originally sued the state over public education funding in the Leandro case in 1994

  • Southeast Collegiate Prep Academy Principal Lykisa Coby says the Leandro case continues to make headlines and draw interest

  • Coby says that because of the case, her district and many others still have a chance to get the resources they desperately need

She and others in Halifax County have spent months preparing for Wednesday’s Leandro hearing, a decades-long education funding case that would give her low-wealth district millions of dollars.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in the case but didn't immediately rule. The court has ruled twice now that lawmakers need to fully fund a court-ordered plan for public education, but that hasn't happened.

“We don’t want to just represent Halifax. We want to represent everyone who has that shortage and needs the extra resources for the students to be successful," Coby said.

Coby says the Leandro case is precisely why she commutes two hours to work at Southeast Collegiate Prep Academy every day and why she decided to become a principal in the first place.

“I felt like coming here, in an area where the need is so high, that I could make a difference," she said.

Coby believes funding is the key to providing opportunities. 

Like other school districts with staffing shortages, Coby says many core subjects at the school have a substitute instead of a full-time teacher. And recruitment is all the more challenging in her district because they don’t have the money to offer bonuses and other incentives.

Additionally, Coby says that because they are in a rural area, the Wi-Fi is limited, which creates problems when textbooks are 10 to 15 years old and the only way students can access relevant materials is online.

“Chromebook is no good when you don’t have internet access," she said. "It then puts them in the frame of mind that what they’re learning is not important because they don’t have the updated materials to assist them.”

Coby says science labs at the school have outdated equipment and no running water or gas for experiments. She calls the labs a safety hazard. Electives like art, theater and band are nonexistent.

“It makes me feel sad because Southeast is known for their marching band, for the Mighty Marching Trojans. Back in the days they were something to be reckoned with," she said.

The school’s motto is "Changing the narrative," which is something Coby has aspired to do in her time at the high school — to create a legacy students can be proud of.

But what it all goes back to, she says, is providing students a sound, basic education. It's something that shouldn’t be up for debate but guaranteed, she says.

“Every student has the right to have that in their school, no matter where they’re from, no matter what they look like," she said.

After Wednesday's hearing, the state Supreme Court can make a ruling at any time, but it typically takes a few weeks to a few months.