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News from the Board

 

The Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 4 at Blue Creek Elementary School.  

Immediately preceding the regular meeting, new Board members Jeff Hudson and Bill Lanier and recently re-elected Board member Bob Williams were administered the oath of office by Chief District Court Judge Paul Hardison. In the oath, the members agreed to uphold the constitutions and laws of both the United States and North Carolina to the best of their abilities while serving on the Board of Education. The meeting that followed the swearing in ceremony was an eventful one, during which the Board voted on several important issues.  

First on the agenda was selecting a Chair and Vice Chair for the Board. Board members voted using a ballot system and re-elected Pam Thomas as Board Chair and elected Paul Wiggins as Vice Chair.  

The December Good News Spotlight was dedicated to recognizing Superintendent Rick Stout, as it was his last Board meeting while serving as the OCS superintendent. Executive Director of Community Affairs Brent Anderson took a few minutes to share Mr. Stout’s accomplishments in his time at OCS with the audience and thank him for his service. Mr. Stout’s retirement will be official beginning January 1, 2019.  

Earlier this year, the Board began the process of finding Onslow County Schools’ next superintendent. The community and OCS employees were asked to submit surveys on the qualities they would like to see in the new leader. The survey results were presented to the Board in the Dec. 4 meeting by Allison Schafer of the North Carolina School Boards Association.  

Ms. Schafer told the Board that the feedback from the community was very similar to that from the staff, as all the same qualities were in the top 10 for each group. Survey results showed that the community and OCS employees all would like a superintendent who is good at advocating for resources for the schools, has excellent people skills, understands how to provide a safe environment for students, and is willing to collaborate and communicate. Board members echoed those sentiments and said they will seek a candidate who is a “communication expert” and has a “servant’s heart.”  

During the public comment periods of the meeting, two public participants, Dr. Joseph Capper and Michael Onifer, spoke to the Board to request that they seek a superintendent that does not support comprehensive sexual education programs. Moving forward, the Board will review applications and select the candidates they would like to speak with further.  

In the next order of business, Mr. Brent Anderson read the Board a resolution staff recommended sending to the state to request support and lenience in testing results, planning allotments, transportation ratings, restoration funding and financial flexibility following Hurricane Florence. The Board unanimously approved the resolution.  

Mr. Anderson next presented the Board with the staff-recommended calendar revisions that were meant to maximize the lost instruction time and make up necessary days after Hurricane Florence. After some discussion on why extending the school year more would not work and plans in the event of more inclement weather, the Board unanimously approved the revisions. The new calendar is now officially in effect.  

Chief Technology Officer Jeff Pittman then presented the Board with a proposed policy change that he said would relieve the IT department of some storage issues. Policy 5071-7351 currently says that emails sent and received by OCS employees must be stored for 5 years for the purpose of keeping public records. Mr. Pittman requested that the Board consider changing the policy to say that the records be kept 3 years instead, to relieve the storage shortage the school system is facing. Board member Jeff Hudson expressed concerns regarding Board member emails, saying he would like to extend the time BOE emails are kept to 4 years. The Board agreed to revisit the policy in January.  

Next, the Board voted on whether or not to renew the contract OCS has with an independent audit agency that has conducted annual audits for the school system since 2009. The contract was approved with 6 votes, with Bob Williams casting the only dissenting vote. Mr. Williams voted against the renewal, citing concerns about whether OCS was getting the most competitive price for the services.  

In other business, the Board approved Chief of Operations Steve Myer’s request to proceed with negotiations with Smith Sinnett Architecture for repairs and projects that will need to be done as a result of Hurricane Florence. Mr. Myers and other staff will work on a contract with Smith Sinnett and present it to the Board for approval at a later date. The Board also agreed to allow the City of Jacksonville to install a new sidewalk in front of the OCS Central Services office on Broadhurst Road. Board member Bill Lanier was not present for the votes regarding architects and the sidewalk easement.