Williams steps down from school board

By Mary Katherine Murphy

February 10, 2014

LAURINBURG — Following Monday’s meeting of the Scotland County Board of Education, board member Darwin Williams announced his resignation, citing the demands of his responsibilities as chief of the Laurinburg Police Department.

“When they announced me chief … I knew that my responsibility to the police department would be great,” said Williams. “My job is to secure Laurinburg and to be the chief of police and make sure that I’m doing the best I can by the city of Laurinburg.”

Williams was appointed to the school board seven years ago to fulfill the unexpired term of Shep Jones and has since been elected to the board twice. In August, Williams took office as Laurinburg’s chief of police, and he said he resolved to remain on the board for six months.

“The school board is very important to me,” he said. “I’ve been proud every day serving Scotland County Schools and the children of Scotland County and the citizens of Scotland County. I’m doing this with a heavy heart.”

He added that the board hiring the school system’s new superintendent should be the board with which that superintendent works, and exhorted the remaining board members to continue to work in the best interests of the school system’s students.

“They expect us to go after each other and do what’s right by the kids of Scotland County, that’s why they voted us in,” said Williams. “So you guys keep after it, keep the superintendent in check, make sure you’ve got his back, and keep fighting for the kids of Scotland County.”

During the meeting, the board gave Superintendent Rick Stout the authority to establish Saturday school makeup days, which would be half days, if the threat of sleet and snow necessitates cancellations this week. The board approved Saturday school by a 4-3 vote, with board members Jeff Byrd, Darrel Gibson, and Jamie Sutherland opposed.

“Going to three or four more half-days we are really cheating our kids,” Byrd said. “We are here to educate our kids, and no one wants to go to school on Saturday. Doing more half-days I think is just going through the motions and we’re really not teaching our kids.”

School has been cancelled for Tuesday, with the schools monitoring weather conditions for the rest of the week.

So far, three of the four possible makeup days during the year — Feb. 21, March 21, and April 21 — will be used to compensate for classes cancelled during the last week in January. Byrd suggested that teacher and student burnout and behavior issues may arise if scheduled school breaks are whittled away in an effort to make up for days missed due to weather.

The board also discussed extending the school year, as the schools may reschedule state end-of-year testing as necessary.

“Of all that we’ve said, I don’t see what was wrong with adding on to the end of the year, other than graduation, and that’s three or four months out,” Gibson said. “I think people can make changes for graduation.”

In other business, the board approved alternative means of promoting third-grade students not meeting state reading standards. Upon recommendation of the state superintendent, the General Assembly last week gave local school systems the latitude to establish its own achievement metrics for allowing students to progress to fourth grade.

“The Read to Achieve law is pretty strict, it didn’t give us a lot of leeway to allow students to be promoted or to provide interventions so that we can help them in reading,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pamela Baldwin. “It really just told us that we needed to retain them and then put them in summer camp.”

As approved on Monday, students with a cumulative average of 70 percent on benchmark tests administered throughout the school year, or who are determined by Reading 3D end of year testing to be performing on grade level, will be promoted to fourth grade.

Baldwin said that, with those exemptions, about 80 third-grade students will be retained and enrolled in a summer reading camp, as opposed to 200 without them.

Meredith Bounds, the school system’s public information officer, presented a 2014-2015 academic calendar, with 1,080 instructional hours in 180 days. In this calendar, the school year will begin on Aug. 25 and end on June 11. That calendar will be posted for a 30-day review before final board approval.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.