By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Student recognitions were a major part of the Edgecombe County Board of Education meeting Monday evening at W.A. Pattillo School. Several Gold Key students from each school in the district received a plaque and a “congratulations” from Edgecombe County Public Schools Superintendent John Farrelly and Board Chair Ann Kent.
“Up to four students from each school are nominated for the award by their teachers for serving as positive role models in the classroom and throughout their schools. Awarded students may have demonstrated good citizenship, made an extra effort academically or successfully overcome a challenge,” said Lauren Edmondson, communications and community relations coordinator for Edgecombe County Public Schools.
Other students recognized at Monday evening’s meeting were the middle and high school math competition winners. The board also recognized ECPS employee of the month, Etheleen Wilkins, bookkeeper/ office manager at Edgecombe Early College High School, and the custodians at North Edgecombe High School, recipients of the clean school award. The Tarboro High School Air Force JROTC presented the colors for the occasion.
The board then moved to the business portion of its meeting. A primary action item that the board approved unanimously is a reduction-in-force for the 2013-2014 school year. The reduction-in-force includes ten classroom teachers, 16 teacher assistants, four lead Common Core teachers, 20 months of employment for the Career and Technical Education program and one central office classified position. The cuts are due to a $1,593,668 reduction in state funding as well as federal funding and a decrease in student enrollment.
“We’ve been very strategic in spending a lot of time in the last six or seven months to try to make the best decisions for students,” said Farrelly. He said all of the administrators in the district were involved in the budget process. Board Chair Ann Kent thanked Farrelly for his diligent work on the budget.
Board Vice Chair Evelyn Shaw Wilson asked if the number of proposed cuts could change throughout the year, based on student enrollment.
“Certainly an educated person would guess that we would have another impact from students who are leaving Edgecombe County Public Schools unfortunately to go to the charter school (North East Carolina Prep School),” Farrelly replied. “To the board, I may have to bring a recommendation of another round of riffs based on the loss of state and federal funding…”
Other action items that the board approved are the selection of an auditor for 2012-2013 – Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams & Company, the same auditor the board used last year; the 2013-2014 payroll calendars; a change in the pay date for June 2013 and a budget amendment for 2012-2013.
Among the other items on the board’s meeting agenda were two items for information presented by Sherita Cobb, the district’s director of secondary education. First, Cobb shared the findings of the recent Office of Civil Rights Review. This is the first time ECPS has had such a review.
A visit to the county’s high schools indicated accessibility areas of noncompliance, such as a water fountains not at the proper height for wheelchair accessibility, and a lack of the necessary number of parking spaces for handicapped individuals. At the same time, the district received several commendations, among them strong school leadership and a process in place for providing information about financial assistance that is nondiscriminatory. The next steps are to complete a compliance violation plan. Cobb said taking the steps to get ECPS into compliance should be a short, simple process.
Cobb proceeded to update the board on the additional Edgecombe Community College (ECC) courses that will be offered to ECPS students at high-school sites next school year. Among the classes that will be offered at different high schools in the district in the fall are general biology, public speaking, introduction to computers and child development. Child development II, general psychology and sociology will be among the spring offerings.
Farrelly said he has spoken with Dr. Deborah Lamm, ECC president, and she is excited about the partnership with ECPS.
“I think we need to push student participation, access. This could be a way for us to provide more opportunities to students,” Farrelly said.
The meeting also included a presentation by members of the Edgecombe Early College High School of highlights from their trip to Washington, D.C. In the future, the board will highlight a different school at each month’s meeting.