September 24, 2021
September 20, 2021 School Board Regular Meeting Report
The Yancey County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Monday, September 20, 2021.
Karen Stevens was recognized by Superintendent Kathy Amos for being accepted into the 2021-22 Cohort of the North Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program. Stevens, a teacher at Cane River Middle School, joined 50 other education professionals who will learn about education policy issues and perspectives to become more informed, rounded contributors to the critical debates that shape education in North Carolina. Policy, leadership development, and networking are the three key focuses of the Education Policy Fellowship Program. Stevens has recently completed the Yancey County Schools Leadership Academy Program and is on track to complete her post-master’s certificate in School Administration in summer 2022.
Samantha McClure, counselor at Mountain Heritage High School, was recognized as a 2021 Innovation Grant Winner from the My Future NC organization. Mountain Heritage was one of five high schools across North Carolina to receive this grant. McClure’s submission for “First in FAFSA” highlighted the strategies used at Mountain Heritage to assist students in planning for life after graduation, regardless of race, language, first generation status, or GPA.
Properties and Facilities
Superintendent Amos reported that the architectural firm of McMillan, Pazdan, and Smith have completed their assessments of Blue Ridge and Burnsville Elementary Schools and are moving forward with Micaville, South Toe, the middle schools, and high school. Amos reported that these assessments will be presented at the next regular meeting on October 18th, and will provide the information needed to make the best decisions in moving forward when state or federal monies may become available for facilities.
Amos recapped the actions from the previous special meeting regarding the school system’s surplus properties. The original offered received from J. Martin McCoy in the amount of $1,125,000 for all four surplus properties that included Bald Creek Elementary, Bald Creek Daycare Building, Bee Log Elementary and Clearmont Elementary was terminated. McCoy submitted a new offer through Beverly-Hanks Agenda John Webb in the amount of $725,000 that excluded Clearmont Elementary. In last Thursday’s meeting, Webb explained that one finding during the due diligence investigation revealed that Clearmont Elementary sat in a 100 year flood plain. This new offer has entered the 10-day upset bid process and is anticipated to close on or before November 1st.
Covid Health Update
During the Covid Health Update, YCS Lead Nurse Shea Laws provided information on current active cases and quarantines in the school system. While the system has seen a rise in active cases and quarantines from the Labor Day holiday as expected, numbers are beginning to slowly decline. Laws reminded the Board that not all quarantines and sickness are Covid related as the county has seen an uptick in the amount of flu, strep throat, stomach viruses, and RSV.
With so many students being under quarantine, many for multiple times since school began, there was discussion on how to successfully reduce the number of quarantines, keeping students in school for seated instruction. Chair Fortner and Superintendent Amos presented a Test to Stay Test to Play Program that will let students, with parental consent, be tested by school personnel to confirm their negative result, allowing them to remain at school or participate in an athletic event. Amos will continue to research this program and report her findings to the Board.
As now required by NC Session Law 2021-130, the school board re-voted on the policy regarding optional/mandatory masking for staff and students. Two policies were presented for vote as received from the NC School Boards Association. After lengthy discussion, Member Jeanne Tyner made a motion to accept the Policy Option A stating that masks be made mandatory, for no longer than one month, and until the daily test program can researched and put in place, thus reducing the number of student quarantines. Fortner called for a second on this motion, of which none was made, making the motion “fall to the floor” – or no longer active or valid.
At that time, Member Cody Whitson made a motion that the Board accept Policy Option B that states that masks remain optional except on school buses, where they are mandatory by CDC guidance. Vice Chair Wade Dahlberg seconded the motion that was approved by 4-1 vote with Tyner being the only opposing vote. The Board will vote on the optional/mandatory masks issue at the next regular meeting on October 18th.
2020-21 Accountability Results
Assistant Superintendent and Testing Director Heather Cox presented test results from the 2020-21 school year. Cox compiled information comparing YCS to counties in the North Western and Western Regions of the state with test scores placing Yancey County 3rd in the Region and 9th in the state out of 115 school systems for the combined End-of-Course and End-of-Grade testing. Cox stated, “Ranking this high in one of the hardest years in public education is the result of students, parents, teachers, and administrators working together to keep students on track. We still have areas to work on, however, we are very pleased with how everyone worked so hard last school year.”
CTE Director Cynthia Deyton reported on the Project Lead the Way program being developed through grant funding that will offer STEM activities and instruction to elementary and middle school students across the county.
Deyton also reported on a new Xello Career Exploration Program that provides students at all grade levels with access to software to help formulate the building blocks of a meaningful life and career development. Middle and high school students will experience interactive assessments to build self-knowledge and create personalized online student portfolios and career/college profiles.
IT Director Karen Banks provided a technology/curriculum update stating that a new typing.com program is now being used in classrooms Kindergarten through 8th grade county-wide. Promethean Boards and document cameras are continuing to be installed and made available for teachers for classroom instruction. Laptops and Chromebooks have all been received, processed through the IT Department, and given out to staff and students.
MHHS Principal Kevin Huskins provided plans for the Homecoming at the high school that will be held on Friday night, October 1st against Owen High School. The many Homecoming traditions of Spirit Week, hall decorating, and coin wars are being held again this year. The 2020 Homecoming Prince, Princess, King, and Queen will be on hand to crown this year’s winners.
Maintenance / Transportation -
In the Maintenance and Transportation Departments report, Director Derek Murphy reported that the School Bus Ridership Count will be conducted next week, September 27th through October 1st.
Murphy also reported that the oversized fans for the middle and high school gymnasiums are scheduled for delivery and installation in the next few weeks.
The next regular meeting of the school board will be Monday, October 18, 2021.