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News from the Board -- October 1, 2019

 

On Tuesday, October 2, 2019, the Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting at Blue Creek Elementary School. The meeting’s agenda items included the consideration of contractor bids for Catherine Lake and Stump Sound area elementary schools, a presentation on the Ready and iReady math curriculum, and revisions to BOE policy 4240, regarding child abuse reporting and investigation.  

After a Good News Spotlight that recognized the OCS Finance department, and the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year and the TOY finalists, OCS Chief of Operations Steve Myers began the meeting with a presentation of the construction bids received for the new schools being built in the Catherine Lake and Stump Sound areas.  
In his presentation, Mr. Myers told the Board that two bids had been received for the projects following the reopening of the bids last month. Daniels & Daniels was determined to be the lowest responsible bidder, with total costs coming in at $27,895,000 for the Stump Sound school and $26,151,000 for the school at Catherine Lake. The combined cost for the two schools was higher than expected and exceeded the bonding request the County submitted to the Local Government Commission for funding. For this reason, Mr. Myers asked the Board to consider awarding the bid for the Stump Sound school to Daniels & Daniels and to come back to the funding, bidding and awarding process for the Catherine Lake school in 2020.  

After much discussion on how to avoid further delays and future funding issues, the Board unanimously approved awarding the bid for the Stump Sound school to Daniels & Daniels in the amount of $27,895,000. The bid includes an alternate to increase the school’s core capacity to 870 to further alleviate the overcrowding in the southern part of the county, as well as add a generator to the school so it can be used as a shelter in the event of a hurricane.  

Next, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Folger presented to the Board information on the Ready and iReady math curriculum, which OCS began using last year. Dr. Folger, joined by Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Global Readiness Susanne Long and Swansboro Elementary Principal Paige Highsmith, shared her excitement for the new program and explained how it would help the district improve overall math proficiency.  

For years, Dr. Folger said, OCS’ percentage of students on grade level for math in grades 3-8 has been slightly below the state average. In the 2017-2018 school year, the state average was 56.1% and OCS came in at 51.2%. To address an issue that is seemingly affecting nearly half of our students, Dr. Folger said that tutoring and extra instruction will not necessarily help; the issue lies in core instruction, which is the instruction every student receives in every classroom every day. The new math curriculum is designed to encourage students to think deeply about math, collaborating with other students to problem solve, rather than memorizing answers and steps.  

To conclude the meeting, Dr. Brendan Gartner, Executive Director of Human Resources and Student Services, presented the Board with proposed changes to BOE Policy 4240, which addresses child abuse reporting and investigation. The first change was adding human trafficking, involuntary servitude and sexual servitude to the list of forms of child abuse that must be reported to social services, in accordance with changes in the definition of an abused or neglected juvenile. Other changes included the differences between the reporting requirements for K-12 and Pre-K, changes to wording to encompass both reporting laws, details on the difference between the requirements for cooperation with investigating agencies, the inclusion of the requirement that a parent must be notified if a pre-k student is to be interviewed on campus, and the statement of the requirement of licensed staff members to report suspected abuse to the State Superintendent.  

The changes were approved by a vote of six to one. The dissenting vote came from Board Member Bill Lanier, who cited concerns about the need for clarification in the policy related to reasonable suspicion and holding staff accountable for failure to report suspected abuse.