LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Education met Sunday at the AB Gibson Center for its mid-year retreat to review current school-year data and discuss strategies for a successful future.
Superintendent Ron Hargrave said the purpose of the retreat was to see where the district is going, what has been accomplished and what officials need to do to move forward.
“It’s a process that allows us to not to get to the end of the year and say oops that doesn’t work we should have changed it,” Hargrave said.
Throughout the four-hour session, the focus was not just on students in the district, but also on teachers and staff.
Valarie Williams, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, highlighted several of the district’s successes noting that many of the reported standards in K-12th grade, such as third and fourth grade repeated English Language Arts and third and fifth grade math, showed significant growth as indicated by benchmark scores.
Areas for improvement included first-grade writing skills, reading and analyzing informational text, and collaborative and integrating projects between Career and Technical Education courses and academic core courses to increase retention, proficiency, and student attendance.
‘When students hear the same information across various subject areas,” Williams pointed out. “They retain the information better and have a higher level of success.”
Assistant Superintendent for Auxiliary Service, Larry Johnson, on the heels of the DPI drop-out report, updated the board on the number of dropouts for the 2015-16 school year.
“You need to remember,” Johnson said. “We reported back in August the number of drop outs we had in 2014-15. We are already seeing that many of the processes and procedures that we implemented this year are positively affecting the number of students dropping out this year.”
Johnson said that the number of students that dropped out of school this year is currently 28 as compared to 64 at this time last year.
‘We don’t ever want a student to drop out and we put as many layers of support in place to prohibit that,’ Johnson said. ‘But we are glad to see all of the hard work is paying off and more students are deciding to stay in school.’
Johnson also reported that although disproportionality in regards to suspension of African-American students is still an area for improvement, there has been an overall decrease this year in the total number of suspensions.
Johnson and his staff have some steps in place to continue to work on decreasing the number of students leaving the schools. Counselors, administration and other school personnel meet with the student and parents to develop a plan of action to fit that student.
Students are also offered more dates for Judicial Attendance Council that allows a judge to meet with students and parents to put a plan together to make sure the child gets to school. The most severe cases are identified for review. The program is for students ages six through 16.
In other business, Cory Satterfield, assistant superintendent for Human Resources, updated the board on one of the strategic goals of his department – improved staff attendance.
“We know that one of the most effective ways to ensure student success is by having their teacher in their classroom every day,” Satterfield said. ‘You can’t teach if you’re not there.”
Satterfield said that he shares attendance data with the principals every month so that any absentee trends can be addressed early. He noted that the district’s goal is for the staff attendance rate to be 97 percent or higher, and two schools are already at the 97 percent or higher staff attendance rate and six schools perform at the 96 percent or higher rate.
Satterfield also reported on the Teacher Turnover Rate and celebrated that as of January 2016, the district is at 17.5 percent. The TTR for 2014-15 was 18.9 percent. The data collection period for TTR ends on March 31.
“We are really proud that our Teacher Turnover Rate has seen a steady decline in recent years,” Satterfield said. “As a district, we rank 21st out of 115 districts in the state in so far as TTR. The main contributing factors to our Teacher Turnover rate is that teachers are resigning to teach in another district (27 teachers), teachers are retiring with full benefits (15 teachers), and teachers resigned to teacher in another state or moved because their family relocated (seven teachers each). We continue to put supports in place to keep good teachers here in Scotland County and we hope to continue to see a decline in our turnover rate.”
Chief Finance Officer Jay Toland presented the board with a mid-year finance review starting out with a fund balance report.
“At the end of fiscal year 2015, we had $2,844,637 in fund balance,”Toland said. “However, keep in mind that this does not reflect the high school cafeteria/commons project that happened over the summer. Those expenses will show up at the end of this fiscal year reducing our fund balance by $277,050.”
Toland reiterated the importance of having a fund balance.
“Whenever we are looking at federal or state cuts to our budget, we have to look to our fund balance to supplement those cuts.’
Toland also updated the Board on Department of Public Instruction’s projected number of students for the 2016-17 school year. DPI projects that the district’s ADM at 5,876 students based on the county’s birth rate. This is a drop of 121 students from the 2015-16 school year. Toland remarked that almost all of the funding sources base their allocations off of the projected student enrollment thus any decline affects a district’s overall budget.
In anticipation of a vote at its regular meeting, the board also reviewed the proposed consolidation plan.
Board member Pat Gates told her fellow board members that, “if we are looking at an August deadline to make some of these proposed changes, we need to decide what our next steps are.”
In the phased process, Phase II would move Covington students to Sycamore Lane and would move SEarCH onto Covington’s campus.
Director of Transportation and Maintenance Roger Ammons, pointed out that the immediate savings from Phase II would be seen in the $75,000 rental fee to St. Andrews. Ammons estimated that the changes to the Covington Street facility to accommodate high school students would be minimal and would cost about $50,000.
Phase III of the Consolidation Plan would move North Laurinburg students to Laurel Hill and Phase IV would merge I. Ellis Johnson and South Scotland student bodies in a new school.
In other business, Board Attorney Nick Sojka, provided an update on the education -related legislation passed by the General Assembly in the 2015 long session, and gave a preview of measures that may be taken up in this year’s short session beginning April 25.
Sojka highlighted the recent tendency of the General Assembly to include major educational policy changes in the state budget as special provisions. He thanked the board for its diligence in following legislative issues and encouraged them to continue to provide feedback to legislators and the North Carolina School Boards Association regarding possible legislation and the state budget.
The Board of Education will hold its regular monthly meeting on Monday at 6 pm in the Board Room at the A. B. Gibson Center.
Reach Maria Grandy at 910-276-2311. Meredith Bounds, public information officer with Scotland County School, assisted with this report.