LAURINBURG — School finance staffers earned high marks for their accounting work three years in a row.
The Scotland County Board of Education learned of the distinction when it met Monday. Public Information Officer Meredith Bounds recognized the Scotland County School’s Financial Department on their recent awards which were announced at the annual financial offices summer conference.
The department earned the Association of School Business Officials International Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting, The Association of Business Officials International’s Meritorious Budget Award, and the Government Finance Officers Association’s Certificate of Achievement of Excellence in Financial Reporting.
“We are one of 12 districts in the whole state to receive all three awards for the 2014-15 school year,” said Bounds. “The district’s financial department has received all three of these awards for the last three years in a row.”
The department also received the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Recognition of Achievement Award for school financial accounting excellence.
Also during its regular monthly meeting, the board unanimously approved several agenda items, which included the purchase of a new mobile STEM classroom, a five-year Literacy Plan and personnel reports.
All three agenda items called for a separate vote and had been discussed at length during the board’s Committee of the Whole meetings on July 25 and just prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
The mobile STEM classroom is a 2004 Class A motor home valued at $34, 900 and has almost 35,000 miles on it. The motor home features two slide-outs and has a sofa, pull-out table, TV and DVD and an A/C unit.
Larry Johnson, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, along with getting approval for the purchase of the STEM classroom, gave an update on the district’s contracts with the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office and the Laurinburg Police Department.
“Because Sycamore Lane is the largest school we will have we will have the same contract for the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office and the Laurinburg Police Department, they will just share Sycamore Lane,” Johnson said. “One day the sheriff’s office will cover it, the next the police department will cover Sycamore Lane. They’ll work together and collaborate to make that happen.”
Johnson also told the board the safety officers will be meeting next week with Sheriff Ralph Kersey and Chief Darwin Williams to go over information on gang affiliations and other things safety officers should keep an eye on during the 2016-17 school year.
Dr. Rachel Burris, instructor for the academically and intellectually gifted program, had presented the five-year Literacy Program to the board, which looks to have 91 percent of Scotland County students graduate from high school and be career and college ready by 2020.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Valerie Williams then gave an overview of the three-day leadership retreat that was led last week, which over 145 district employees attended.
“These retreats continue to get better every year,” said Williams. “We focused our retreat on a book study. The book called Results Now is based on how to achieve improvement in teaching and learning with a strong focus on our administrators and teachers.”
Williams said one of the key discussions during the retreat was on blended learning and how teachers need to not be afraid to incorporate technology into their classrooms.
“We really have to get to teaching the way students learn with technology,” she said. “We see that some adults are still afraid to use technology as a learning tool. We’re scared that kids are going to do things they shouldn’t with the technology. But it is a powerful tool that, if we train the teachers and students on how to use it the correct way, we can get results from.”
Superintendent Dr. Ron Hargrave updated the board on two pieces of legislation — on using mentors to help new teachers and paying for teacher’s assistants to attend college to receive their teaching certificates — the schools are asking for additional information on before they implement any changes.
“There are two pieces of legislation that were in the budget that we are asking for more clarity on,” said Dr. Hargrave. “One had to do with mentors. The legislation requires every new teacher to have a certified mentor, that has certification in the same area they were teaching, which means we would need a lot more mentors than what we currently have.”
Scotland County Schools currently has a group of retired mentors work with their new teachers Dr. Hargrave explained. The legislation, the way it is written now, would require the school to hire more mentors, who are certified in the same disciple as their protege.
“We have asked the general assembly to give us more clarification and to see if that was the true intent of this before we move forward with it,” he said. “A lot of the districts have asked the same question, so we’ve been told at this point to just do what we’ve always done.”
The second piece of legislation would allow the school board to select five teacher’s assistants to go back to school full time to get their teaching credentials. The issue is currently there are no guidelines on how to select the recipients or how they would receive compensation for going back to school.
“This particular piece of legislation would pay for them (teacher’s assistants) to go full-time and take a leave of absence to do that and give them a stipend,” Dr. Hargrave explained. “Because of the lateness of getting the information and with school starting next week we did not have time to go through the process and select people. We want to make sure we do it right and we don’t put people in a situation where it ends up costing them something they were not prepared to pay.”
The school district currently uses Fayetteville State University and St. Andrews University to allow teacher’s assistants to get their teaching certification and then reimburses them for what they paid.
Dr. Hargrave concluded the meeting, following the approval of the personnel reports, by welcoming Elisabeth Harrell to Scotland County Schools. Harrell will serve as the new assistant principal at I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.