Former Isaac Bear student “not surprised” by news of Kelly’s actions


Casey McAnarney | The Seahawk

Isaac Bear Early College High School opened fall 2006 and began as a partnership between UNCW, the New Hanover County Schools and the North Carolina New School’s Project.

Casey McAnarney, Editor-in-Chief

*The name of the individual involved was granted anonymity by The Seahawk. For the duration of this article, this person will be referred to as Samuel.

A former student of Isaac Bear Early College High School [IBECHS]is not entirely surprised by the news of teacher Michael Kelly’s criminal actions, though he hopes that it does not affect the image of the school as a whole.

Kelly, a former local teacher at Isaac Bear Early College High School, was arrested Feb. 6 after an investigation by the FBI uncovered indecent liberties Kelly took with a student. He was charged with third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of indecent liberties with a student.

Courtesy of UNCW
Isaac Bear Early College High School is one of seven high schools in New Hanover County.

In an affidavit for a search warrant of Kelly’s home, it was revealed that there was more to the story. Kelly shared pornographic images with students through text and the social media application, Snapchat.

The warrant also disclosed that conversations between the FBI and the student who had these images on his phone revealed that Kelly held sexually-based discussions with students in his classroom during lunch: “Kelly discussed his sexual interactions with women, as well as at least one incident where ‘he and a male friend watched pornography and masturbated at the same time,'” according to the StarNews. The discussion of the penis size of Kelly as well as of the students also came up in conversation.

Samuel*, who was a student at IBECHS in 2009, never had Kelly as a teacher but was tutored by Kelly in chemistry. Samuel and his friends also had conversations with Kelly that seemed to be in jest at the time, but which are now providing a sense of clarity.

When news first broke came out, and after reflecting on this information, Samuel was not as surprised. Samuel found out about this news from a friend from his time at IBECHS. He explained that this school gave him what are his best friends to this day.

“It was like one of those things where I was like surprised but not really,” Samuel said. Kelly was a good teacher but had his moments of being off-putting, according to Samuel.

“It was one of those things where you see something one way, but then new information comes out that alters your perspective and everything becomes clear,” Samuel said about hearing the news. “It was something like that.”

Samuel explained that, at the time, he and his friends shrugged off odd conversations they had with Kelly. They were all teenage guys and the “maturity level was not really high.” So, when he partook in those kinds of conversations, it felt as though Kelly was merely attempting to get along with his students and be friendly.

“He made your normal sex jokes,” Samuel said. “At the time, my friends and I were like, whatever. I mean at one point he made a reference to going on Craigslist to basically find threesomes. At the time we just thought he was bullshitting us. Now, I do not know; that very well could have been true.”

The other instance that stood out in Samuel’s mind was a discussion he and his friends had with Kelly about an impending trip. Kelly was going on a cruise and the students thought that this was “cool.” Samuel pointed out that he does not know exactly what was said, but that Kelly said something along the lines of the trip location being nice. Kelly explained that he had been making extra money by filming himself pleasuring himself. He would then send these videos a website that would give him like 50 bucks, according to Samuel’s memory of how the conversation occurred.

“Now the way he said it seemed super sarcastic,” Samuel said, “but, again, now with this kind of stuff coming out, it may have been true.”

Casey McAnarney | The Seahawk                                                                          Isaac Bear Early College High School is located at 630 MacMillan Avenue, near UNCW’s campus.

As for the news released on Kelly’s action, “That is truly disgusting, ” Samuel said. “If I knew that was at play, I definitely would have spoken up earlier. That I did not know.”

Samuel said that he and his friends were rather outspoken members of IBECHS and that they would have notified someone had they known anything like this was going on. Even if the mention of children had come up in conversation, Samuel said that he would have told someone. To Samuel and his friends, the conversations did not seem serious and they never involved discussions of minors.

“It is just disappointing, because what the school represents,” Samuel said. “I mean, I got through college half as fast as I would have otherwise for free. There are a lot of kids going there now that I know whose families do not have money for college. If something like this jeopardizes that program, you are going to have kids that can not necessarily go to college.”

IBECHS is one of seven high schools in New Hanover County. It has 231 students and 10 full-time teachers, making the ratio of students to teachers 23:1. Out of these students, 35 percent are minorities and 40 percent are “economically disadvantaged.”

When compared to other schools in the area, IBECHS shows higher scores on testing, according to U.S. News and World Report. Where New Hanover County score within the 61 percentile for English proficiency and the 49 for math, IBECHS scored in the 93 percentile for English and 82 for math. The state average is 60 for English and 40 for math.

The biggest concern for Samuel is that IBECHS is going to be “undermined as a whole” because of Kelly’s actions. “Things like this happen in bigger schools. My entire class walked in about 20 minutes at graduation, so it is a super small school. I feel like that at any given time, it is on the cusp of being cut or losing funding. [IBECHS] did a lot for me as a person.”

The percent of disadvantaged students at IBECHS who are proficient is 91.1 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report, and the difference between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students is -1.5 percent.