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News from the Board -- March 19, 2020

On Thursday, March 19, the Onslow County Board of Education held an emergency meeting to consider a resolution granting the superintendent emergency powers to keep the district moving forward as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Ahead of the meeting’s only agenda item, the Board and staff took time to reflect on how the district’s COVID-19 efforts are going thus far. Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins said he was thrilled with the work being done across the district regarding digital instruction. He said that, while it is not ideal and still has a few things that still need to be figured out, he is proud of Onslow County’s preparedness for this situation and the way that administrators and teachers across the district have embraced virtual learning.  

Next, Dr. CJ Korenek, OCS chief of human resources and student services, spoke to the work being done to ensure that all employees are taken care of and paid throughout the COVID-19 closures. Dr. Korenek shared that, while guidance from state officials has indicated that all staff must either be working or taking leave to be eligible for pay, district staff have been working to find ways to be more flexible and find opportunities for people to work remotely when possible. She said that guidance was given to principals earlier this week regarding teachers’ ability to work remotely if they are comfortable doing so, and that opportunities for other classifications of staff to work remotely are being considered. This includes school social workers, counselors, teacher assistants and more. As for staff that are currently still reporting to work normally, Dr. Korenek said that they are taking advantage of this time to plan, clean, organize, do training, and make repairs that are usually difficult to do with students in the buildings.  

In the meeting’s only official order of business, Board members voted 6-1 to approve a resolution, recommended to them by the North Carolina School Boards Association, to grant the superintendent emergency powers to make necessary decisions as the district navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution allows the superintendent more flexibility to make decisions regarding staff assignments, school calendars, governmental waiver applications, curriculum, and more, which would normally require Board approval. This would allow him to make decisions more quickly, as is often needed during a rapidly evolving situation. These powers are entrusted in the superintendent under the understanding that he will continue to communicate with the Board and inform him of the decisions he makes.  

The sole dissenting vote came from Board member Bob Williams, who cited concerns regarding the necessity of the resolution and whether or not it was wise to waive the requirement of Board approval for certain decisions.