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Notes from the August 8 Chatham County school board meeting

By Mia Munn
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Here are my notes from the school board meeting held on August 8, 2011.

Pubic Comment - Jeffrey Starkweather made public comment on the budget. He said the board was right to ask the commissioners for $500k (in June) for additional pupils, and the commissioners should have funded the whole thing, not just the part for teachers. The board was right to ask the commissioners for the $706K in July, because if they had waited, and the swing had been in the opposite direction ($1M additional deficit instead of a surplus), then it would have caused people to be frantic before the start of school, and the commissioners would have said, “Why didn’t you ask earlier”. The notion that cutting staff doesn’t affect the students is wrong. He ran a newspaper, but if he only had reporters, the paper would have failed – it needed printers, ad salesmen, etc. Same with a school – it needs the support personnel. He supported the idea of a budget committee, but said we need to move beyond the budget to talk about innovation and best practice. We should focus on coming together to create the best schools possible.

CTE - The board has added a new section to its agendas: Eye on Achievement. The presentation tonight was on the CTE (Career and Technical Education) program. The district hired a consultant, Charles Perry, last year to evaluate the CTE program. He worked with a task force of 30 people, most from the business community, over the past year. Some of these people were at the meeting: Robin Stevens (Dir of CTE), Diane Reed (EDC), Derrick Jordan (Dir of Secondary Ed), Lisa Chapman (CCCC-Sanford), Karen Allen (CCCC-Pittsboro), Geraldine Kirk (Chatham Central CTE), Matt Alexander, Ted Summy (regional CTE rep from DPI). Deb McManus and Robert Logan were also on the task force. He showed a PowerPoint presentation that has not been posted.

Mr. Perry said no major changes are needed, and we are probably in the middle compared to other districts. During the current economic challenges, it’s evident that we need skilled workers, and we need to connect school with careers, with real world, project-based learning. The US Dept of Labor says 90% of the growing jobs require post-secondary education or certifications, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Many skilled blue-collar jobs now earn white-collar income. Many recent college graduates are “mal-employed”, meaning in a job that doesn’t require a degree. In 2000, 75% college graduates worked in jobs needing a degree, but now only 60% are. We need to link education and the business community.

Our three high schools are as different as he has seen, with very different communities and demographics, so there is not one answer for how CTE should be done in the county. One part of his work was to do SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) with seven stakeholder groups: CTE teachers, academic teachers, counselors, principals, students, businesspeople, and CTE staff. The state did a study of students in rural areas last year that showed 45% of Chatham students want to stay here if they can find jobs.

The Task Force’s recommendations (or considerations, as he called them):
• Create a Steering Committee to oversee implementation of the recommendations
• Create a 3-5 year Strategic Plan for CTE in the county
• Determine and implement courses – essential technical skills for Chatham and the surrounding area
• Connect business leaders with education – help students understand the relevance of their coursework
• Determine and implement a curriculum delivery model (Current model is clusters/pathways at schools. Other models include an academy within a school, magnet High School of academies, centralized career center, virtual/online classes (possibly with other counties. All must be flexible to changing needs)
• Emphasis on entrepreneurship for CTE classes
• Internal and external marketing for CTE and courses
Next steps
• Use the report as a guide
• Use all available community resources
• Build on relationship with CCCC to prepare students for jobs

He said we need to better use the money we have. He cited the barbering program at J-M as filling a need. Health occupations are a growing area that students are interested in, and Chatham has added 2 Health occupations teachers since 2009/2010.

Only parts of his report are available in electronic form – I have asked for a copy of the complete report since only 16 pages were posted. Let me know if you want I copy, and I’ll forward what I get.

Transportation - The board approved the three transportation handbooks, for bus drivers, activity bus drivers, and bus supervisors found here. He also said that a camera on a bus caught a driver reading while driving, and the driver said, “no one said it wasn’t allowed”. The handbooks will ensure that everyone knows the rules. Mr. Hamm asked whether the mileage rate should be increased, since it was set in 2005, when diesel was $3.15/gallon. Mr. Moody said that would be a hardship, particularly for athletic teams, but it might should be discussed for next year if fuel costs go up. Most recent purchase was $3.65/gallon. Activity bus rate is $1.50/mile (not including driver). Yellow bus rate is $2.26/mile (including driver). Flint O’Brien questioned the bus passenger rule (on page 23) “Radios, tape players, record players or other sound generating devices are not allowed on school buses.” Mr. Moody said now everything has earphones, so that’s not enforced.

Accreditation – the district is moving from individual school accreditation to district accreditation. Dr. McCoy gave a presentation that should be posted tomorrow on the process. The district does a self-assessment followed by an outside evaluation. The external evaluators visit will be March 25-28, including a presentation to the board on March 28. There are seven standards:
• Vision and Purpose
• Governance and Leadership
• Teaching and Learning
• Documenting and Using Results (not sure of that one from my notes)
• Resources and Support System
• Stakeholder Communication and Relationships
• Commitment to Continuous Improvement (Vision/Plan and Implement/Monitor and Results/Vision….)

Accreditation is for five years. Mr. Leonard pointed out that district wide accreditation is much easier on the schools (more effort by central administration) than individual school accreditation.

Pre-K program tuition – the board approved an increase in private pay pre-K tuition from $500/month to $550/month and pre-K afterschool from 100/month to $125/month. This is still less than the market rate is Chatham County of $720/month for 7am-6pm. The pre-K budget only includes $25/student for consumables, but the district will pursue sponsorships or other funding for consumables. More at Four is now called NC Pre-K. It’s funding was cut 20% but the school district coordinates with Head Start, private providers, and Child Care Networks to allocate the funding to maximize the number of slots available. The ruling by Judge Manning doesn’t mandate that every eligible student be served (because there aren’t enough spots).

Board agendas out 6 months – this came out of a suggestion at Master Board training. The attached agendas that are located here are drafts. Board members (or members of the public) can request agenda items to be added at least 5 days prior to the meeting.

Student Discipline Policies – the board approved the recommended changes after waiving a second reading. HB736 made a number of changes necessary, particularly removing consequences from policies and putting them into the student code of conduct. The board passed the changes tonight, so they can get the revised Student Handbook, which includes the Code of Conduct, to approve next week. It will then immediately be sent to the printers, so it will be here by or soon after the first day of school.

2012/13 Standing Budget Committee – this also comes out of the Master Board training. The board discussed the composition, but won’t finalize that and the purpose until next week when Ms. Little is at the meeting. Tentatively, the committee will be three board members (Mr. Leonard, Ms. Turner, Mr. Hamm), Ms. Little, Mr. Logan, a teacher, a principal, and 3 community members. Mr. O’Brien suggested that the community members have a finance or accounting background. Ms. McManus and Ms. Turner didn’t think there was a need for the community members to have finance experience, since the other members of the committee members (except for Ms. Little) don’t have finance experience.

Policy 6125 Administration of Medicines to Students was approved on second reading 3-1. Mr. O’Brien didn’t approve because he thought a parent’s note should be enough for OTC medicines, while the policy requires a doctor’s note. (Ms. McManus typically does not vote unless there is a tie.)

2011/12 Budget Committee – this was approved at the August 1 meeting. The community member will be Wendy Morris, the City Executive (branch manager) at the Pittsboro State Employees Credit Union. The other members are Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Hamm, and Ms. Little. This committee and the standing committee are both public bodies, and meeting fall under the open meetings law. They will give at least two days notice of the meetings.

Mia Munn is a former educator who ran for the Chatham County school board in 2008.
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