Board of Education Meeting Recap
The following is a brief recap of the September 14, 2020 Monthly Meeting:
The Board was presented a number of policies for their review. Two policies which generated much discussion amongst Board Members were a proposed Policy 2302 and an updated Policy 2322. Essentially the two policies address how Board members may be able to participate in meetings remotely. In order for the Board to decide which policy to take back to the Board's Policy Committee for further review, a poll was taken amongst the Board. Vice-Chair Strickland suggested keeping 2322 with the updates as presented. Chair West, Vice-Chair Strickland, Dr. Democko, Mr. Leatham, and Mr. Faulks expressed favor of 2322. Mr. Henderson was not in favor of the updated 2322 and preferred the proposed 2302. Ms. Burden abstained from participating in the poll.
Following the review of policies, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, Tamara Berman Ishee, and Executive Director of Federal Programs, Dr. Carol Artis, shared information about a "Kindergarten First" initiative being put in place at all WCPS elementary schools. Dr. Artis shared that the program will be funded through Title I funds and provide Kindergarten students and "priority" first graders opportunities for tutoring and enhancement supports during the school day. Due to the costs of busing, she added that transportation will not be provided for remote or virtual students. Under the Kindergarten First proposal, Ms. Berman Ishee added that the Kindergarten and first grade Dual Language students at Spring Creek Elementary will be served four days per week in face-to-face instruction due to the unique nature of this special language program.
Assistant Superintendent for Support Services, Dr. Tim Harrell, provided an update on the district's long-term monetary Facility Obligations. He broke down the annual costs for a $8.3 million loan borrowed by the Board in 2008 for performance contracts and equipment (equating to $14.8 million over time with accrued interest), a projected half million dollar annual energy management contract, and annual maintenance agreements for solar and mechanical systems at Grantham Middle & Spring Creek Middle. Dr. Harrell shared refinancing strategies that the district is pursuing to reduce the debt on the loan and potential strategies being explored to reduce other annual costs for the Facility Obligations. He also gave a Fund 4 Project List update.
The Board unanimously approved the following items:
Dr. Harrell shared information about a North Carolina Needs Based Public School Capital Fund Grant to build a new Fremont Elementary. Essentially, the grant seeks $15 million of State funding with a match of $8 million from the County of Wayne (equating to $23 million). If approved by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners for submission and approved to be funded by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the school can be built and fully furnished at no cost to Wayne County Public Schools. A Joint Resolution between the Wayne County Board of Education and the Wayne County Board of Commissioners was also presented. Faulk motioned to approve the grant application and amended his motion to approve the joint resolution. The motion was seconded by Dr. Democko. All Board members except Mr. Henderson voted in favor of the motion.
The Board approved its consent agenda, which included past meeting minutes, a personnel report, student reassignments/transfer requests, a surplus inventory, and donation requests.
During Closing Comments, Interim Superintendent James Merrill took a moment to share some observations and thoughts. He shared that he remains concerned about the district's budget.He expressed that it is still several hundred thousand dollars away from being balanced. Dr. Merrill said he and staff have much work to do and will be back before the Board with a budget in a few weeks. He signaled an early warning that he believes the impacts of balancing the budget will be felt deeper across the school district. Before closing his comments, he shared that teacher health and instructional concerns are real. He added that teachers were expressing their concerns in a civil way and noted a 95% attendance rate on the first day of Plan B.
The full meeting can be watched by clicking on Video Link. This meeting and past meeting videos can be viewed by clicking on the following Board Meeting Videos Link. The full September 14, 2020 Meeting agenda and associated materials presented to the Board can be viewed by clicking on Meeting Link.