School board talks improvement plans, sex ed

By Mary Katherine Murphy - [email protected]

LAURINBURG — Scotland County schools are sending to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction school improvement plans, as approved by the board of education on Monday, for each of the three county schools determined to be “low performing.”

All North Carolina public school graded by the state as “D” or “F” schools last month — a total of 581 statewide — are classified as low performing, a designation that does not sit well with Superintendent Ron Hargrave.

“I’m disappointed that it seems like one thing after another puts public schools in a negative light,” Hargrave said, adding that school improvement plans formulated over the summer are in place at all county schools.

In the state school report cards, Wagram Elementary and Carver Middle School were assigned “D” grades and I. Ellis Johnson was an “F,” based on student performance on state tests in the 2014-2015 school year.

“We’re almost a quarter into our school year, and here we are with this added designation and with these added things that we have to do,” Hargrave said. “If we waited every year until October or November to decide what we needed to do to improve students, we’d be in trouble.”

The state public instruction department requires improvement plans for low-performing schools, and that parents of students at those schools receive written notification from the school district.

“The teams did a phenomenal job with being specific with their school improvement plans based off of the data of what is needed from last year’s data, and they’ve done a really, really good job focusing on specific needs of students and teachers in their plans,” said curriculum superintendent Valarie Williams.

Also on Monday, the board recognized transportation department employees Jennifer Cofell, Rosa Oxendine, and Tonisha Smith for their efforts over the summer to reconfigure the district’s bus routes to account for the closure of two schools and to run more efficiently.

“We had a large undertaking as far as changing a lot of routes this year with the closing of two schools, and those ladies did a tremendous job in pulling all of this together for the first day of school,” said auxiliary services superintendent Larry Johnson.

“One of the concerns we had going in was how many complaints the board would receive as far as corner stops and routes. We did have some complaints, but not as many as we thought.”

The district continues to operate 75 buses, which in total run 211 routes — four more routes than last year. Those daily routes total 256 hours, down from just over 258 in 2014-2015.

The board also discussed the Shaw Academy suspension center in place for the first time this year for students serving suspensions shorter than 10 days.

In the first month of school, out-of-school suspensions were down by half district wide. Of 18 middle school students suspended, 13 elected to serve at the Shaw suspension center. Of 38 Scotland High School students suspended, seven served out the term of their suspension at Shaw

“When you look at these numbers, it makes you wonder if the suspension center is even worth having when you really have more kids still out of school than you do in school,” said board member Darrel Gibson.

The school system’s student support services director, Jamie Synan, brought the board up to date on the school system’s efforts to educate parents on the system’s implementation of Healthy Youth Act guidelines in sexual education classes. The curriculum includes graduated levels of material, up to condom demonstrations for eighth- and ninth-grade students.

“Everything always goes right back to abstinence,” Synan said. “Any time a student asks a question, the very first thing that they say is abstinence and then go from there. It’s all aligned with the curriculum: if it doesn’t have anything to do with the curriculum, then they’re told to ask their parents about it.”

In other business on Monday, the board:

— Approved a $52.6 million budget resolution for the 2015-2016 year.

— Elected board members Charles Brown, Pat Gates, and Raymond Hyatt to serve as voting delegates to the N.C. School Boards Association annual conference in Greensboro next month.

— Recognized Scotland High School’s sign language students, who signed along with “Don’t Laugh at Me,” and their efforts to promote bullying awareness.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

By Mary Katherine Murphy

[email protected]

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