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School Board Meeting Wrap-up

Union County School District
La'Coria Cunningham receives her award for a perfect score in English 2 and Biology
Francisco Ramirez-Bernal receives his award for a perfect score in Biology

Daniel Prince

Board approves superintendent's goals, increase in sub pay

At Monday night’s meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees, the board recognized 14 students who earned perfect scores on their end-of-course exams. The awards were given for English 2, Biology, and US History.

In his updates, Superintendent Joey Haney thanked those who made the district’s annual opening session possible. He noted that the activity bus that was approved to purchase more than a year ago has finally been delivered and is available for use. He thanked everyone in the district for their part in making the first day of school a success. He asked for continued prayers for the family of Ja Ruth, the recent graduate who was killed in a car accident last month. Haney also put out a plea for everyone in the schools to wear masks:

(audio below story)

As noted in yesterday’s news, Manning Jeter’s motion to institute a mask mandate was voted down, 5-3.

Haney also presented his goals for the board’s approval. These goals are voted on each year and factor into the board’s annual evaluation of the superintendent. Haney stated one of his goals is important enough to continue each year, and that is communicating to the public the positive things going on in the school district.

The second goal is to focus on recruiting and retaining staff. He noted this is the second year the district will be receiving rural recruitment money, and the district is planning a number of initiatives to recruit and retain staff members.

The final two goals were data-based, he said, and he intentionally set them high, stating that while he and the district may fall short, it is a good thing to set the bar high. The third goal is to increase the percentage of first-graders reading on or above grade level to 80% by spring. He said current data is somewhat unreliable due to COVID, but some measures placed the statistic as low as 30%. Haney stated he wanted to work toward increasing that percentage substantially.

The fourth goal is to raise the district’s four-year graduation rate to 80%. Currently, the rate is around 75%. The board unanimously approved Haney’s goals.

The board then unanimously approved second reading of a policy dealing with safety plans and drills. The state is requiring additional wording requiring the district to conduct monthly assessments for each building owned by the district, to coordinate with local fire departments or code enforcement officials to determine a schedule of fire inspections for each facility. In addition, the policy states that staff members will be informed of restrictions regarding decorations and interior finishes, electrical safety, laboratories, entryways, and storage. Any renovations or construction will ensure compliance with state standards and specifications, and maximum occupancy requirements will be followed at all times.

Dr. Lacresha Byrd informed the board that the state has ended the flexibility it granted last year in weighting end-of-course exams. This year, the exams will again count for 20% of a student’s final grade.

Stacy McAbee, principal at Buffalo Elementary School, updated the board on her school. We’ll have highlights of her presentation in tomorrow’s newscast.

New Finance Director Bryan Gresham stated that the district’s revenues and expenses are tracking normally. Currently, the district has a $610,000 surplus.

He said the annual audit process has begun, and the finance department was able to upload all documents needed without the auditors having to make an in-person visit. The process should wrap up in October and be ready to present to the board in November.

He said the Esser 1 fund has been fully spent, and from that, the district was able to add $346,500 to the general fund. Gresham said the district is set to receive $12.9 million in ESSER 3 funds from the American Rescue Plan. The district is required to spend 20% toward addressing learning loss. He said the district’s plans include 41% to address the issue. Some of the money will be used toward the district’s custodial contract, technology, the third year of the Union County Virtual Academy, special needs programs, mental health services, school nurse supplies, school furniture needs, and homeless and low-income student outreach. In addition, the district will be able to add $1.7 million over three years to the general fund.

Following an executive session for a contractual matter and a personnel matter, the board came back into open session. They unanimously voted to increase noncertified sub pay to $75 a day. They unanimously approved the personnel report. They also unanimously voted to enter into an agreement with Elevate K-12 to fill a 7th-grade science position at Sims. The service offers full-service, live classes via computer. The district has utilized the service in the past.

Superintendent Joey Haney
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