Board members present conference highlights at meeting
At Monday’s school board meeting, Dr. Jane Wilkes, Board Chair Gene Lipsey, and Superintendent Joey Haney provided highlights from the SC School Law Conference. Wilkes stated that one thing that stood out to her was that even when going virtual, accommodation requirements for individuals with special needs are still required to be given. She stated they said at the conference that has been the cause for the highest number of lawsuits in the state right now. She said “long COVID” is a concern of districts, and additional accommodations may need to be made for students suffering the effects. Another aspect of the conference she brought out was on superintendent evaluations. She said how the district handles them is right on point, using quantitative data to measure the progress of the goals, and having explanations as to how district programs and resources are used toward the stated goal.
Lipsey said he found useful the information on COVID and mental health in students, with a rise in depression, anxiety, and suicide during the pandemic. He said it is important to keep the students in school to keep them from falling behind not only academically, but socially. He said another useful seminar dealt with the use of social media and the dangers it can pose, saying that by liking or sharing a particular post, you can be judged as guilty as the one who created the post. He said to be careful, because once you put something out there online, you can’t ever bring it back.
Superintendent Joey Haney said he attended a breakout session on social media and 1st amendment issues that echoed some of what Lipsey said. He said the seminar taught that free speech rights cross the line when talking about causing harm to others or damaging or destroying school property. He attended another session on ESSER funds, which is the federal funds given during the pandemic. They can be used for specific purposes, and at least 20% must go to address learning loss. He said the seminar warned against using the funds for major construction, as that could lead to cost and deadline overruns.
In other superintendent updates, Haney stated that after-school tutoring will begin at all schools on Monday, October 4. They are still seeking out teachers to assist in the program. He said he has formed a Superintendent’s Leadership Team, which consists of a teacher from each school in the district. He noted one of the topics that came up was recruitment and retention of teachers. He asked them for ideas on how to help with those efforts. They also discussed instructional strategies for virtual learning. Some of the teachers in the group will be creating some model virtual lessons to help other teachers with that. Haney noted one other issue that was talked about was the school calendar, where the topic of year-round school came up. He said that the district has not even begun to research that. He noted there would be a lot of logistics that would have to be worked out if the district ever did move in that direction. He stated that one of the challenges and changes would be that student remediation would have to take place throughout the year rather than during the summer, when those activities and enrichment camps and things have traditionally taken place. He stated if the district even started thinking about moving in that direction, it would take a minimum of two years to get it ready to implement.
The board will vote at its next meeting on a delegate and an alternate for the Legislative Advocacy Conference on December 4. The district receives two votes at the meeting, based on its student population. Manning Jeter has expressed interest in attending.
Mark Haney gave an update from the maintenance department as to its summer activities. We’ll highlight those for you in tomorrow’s newscast.
Bryan Gresham stated the budget is tracking normally for this time of year, with $3.43 million in revenue and $2.04 million in expenses, putting the district in the black to the tune of around $1.3 million. He stated the American Rescue Plan Act funds have been fully approved by the state Department of Education, so $12.9 million has been fully allocated to be spent as needed. He noted the annual district audit will begin October 4, and the deadline to submit it to the state is December 1, which he said the district will meet.
After an executive session of over an hour and a half, the board approved a field trip request involving a water activity, which had been added to the agenda as an amendment. They also approved a contract with Douglas Food Stores, Inc., to provide braising pan tilt skillets for Buffalo and Monarch Elementary schools as well as the high school.