From the Boardroom
Wayne County Board of Education Meeting Recap [5-2-22]
On May 2, 2022, the Wayne County Board of Education held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Prior to entering Closed Session, the Board amended its Closed Session agenda by adding the following agenda item:
Discuss pending case of Strong vs. Wayne County Board of Education
The Board approved its Meeting Agenda after returning from Closed Session.
Board recognizes staff and student support program through proclamations
In a show of appreciation for the work that they do daily, the Wayne County Board of Education approved two proclamations. WCPS Speech and hearing staff stood while the Board proclaimed May as Speech and Hearing Month. School-level 2022-2023 Teachers of the Year stood while the Board proclaimed May 2-6 as Teacher Appreciation Week.
Board discusses RFP process for legal services
Board Chair Don Christopher West shared information that the Board attorney’s legal contract will expire June 30, 2022. He opened the floor to discuss next steps for the development of an RFP and attorney interviews. Dr. David Lewis, superintendent, said he had reached out to the North Carolina School Boards Association to get input regarding types of services school boards for districts the size of WCPS should be looking for.
Board Member Foucht questioned if Dr. Lewis knew how many school districts have a staff attorney. Dr. Lewis said he is researching how many school districts use a combination of a staff attorney for day-to-day operations and a larger firm for more serious issues or which may just have an attorney on staff who handles everything. Board Member Henderson asked for a breakdown of legal expenses. Attorney Schwartz said he could do that. Chair West asked that he provide that information as quickly as possible for the Board to consider in developing an RFP and for interviews.
Board Member Strickland said she liked some sample RFPs (Request for Proposal) already shared with the Board and would like the Board to proceed with developing its RFP. Chair West recommended that the Board email him what they would like to see in an RFP. Board Member Leatham liked the idea of getting samples from the North Carolina School Boards Association to further guide the Board in how it could seek out different options or a combination of options for a potential in-house attorney and a contract for attorney services. Board Member Henderson suggested including the following key areas in its RFP: maintaining legal representation at its policy committee, handling MOU and agreements, addressing legal expenses for educational issues, and facilitating workshops and Board training. In regards to cutting costs, he suggested that HR handle its own investigations and that Board members go through the Board Chair versus going directly to the attorneys with calls or requests.
Board Member Foucht stated that monitoring legal expenses in monthly BOE Finance Committee Meetings would allow the Board to better monitor spending throughout the year.
Board Member Leatham recommended that the Board consider having a cap on legal services, and require Board approval to incur costs above the cap if particular situations arise requiring higher levels of attorney services. Board Members Strickland and Burden agreed that money needs to be budgeted for emergencies, but that caps can allow spending to be better monitored by the Board and by departments.
Chair West said the Board can provide input from Board members for Dr. Lewis to finalize the RFP, which will be released publicly for bids, with interviews scheduled to occur in June.
Board approves 2022-2023 Fiscal Year budget
Superintendent Dr. David Lewis requested the Board approve the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget. Prior to approval, he clarified three technical errors with the Budget caught since it was released earlier in April. After some discussion, Leatham made a motion to approve the proposed budget for the 2022-2023 school year, with three understandings:
That it is a budget proposal based on best guess, conservative projections of what our actual funds will be when they drop;
That the County Commissioners are fully aware this is a proposed budget and that because of the increased funding WCPS received recently from its Needs Based Grant for the new Fremont School, the BOE is asking for a long overdue increase of approximately $3 million - or if possible more - since the grant actually saved the County over $10 million of previously known and agreed to costs for the new school; and
When WCPS funds actually are received, the superintendent and staff will present the Board with an addendum so it can actually approve a true budget that will also include the Wayne School of Technical Arts in the final numbers.
Strickland seconded the motion. Board Member Henderson asked for some additional information about the breakdown of funds being requested to the Board of Commissioners. Before a vote was taken, Dr. Lewis addressed Mr. Henderson’s question and gave the following breakdown of the $3 million increase in requested funds to the Board of Commissioners. He shared that the increase has four areas seeking local assistance:
Implementing required salary increases for classified staff without cutting positions - $917,600
Local costs for the new Wayne School of Technical Arts
Covering the utility and routine maintenance costs associated with the lease agreement - $80,000
Operational costs for transportation, CTE programming, instructional support staff, non-instructional staff, specialized equipment or instructional supplies for STEM programming- $500,000
Increased funding to cover increased costs of local supplements for certified staff which have increased as the State has increased salaries - $500,000
Increased funding to cover rising energy and utilities costs - $1,300,000
After no further discussion, the Board unanimously approved its Proposed Budget, which will now be forwarded to the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.
Board hears monthly COVID-19 update & Maintains mask optional policy
Ken Derksen, Executive Director of Community Engagement and Student & Family Support, presented an informal COVID-19 update. Derksen expressed that NCDHHS guidance for schools has not changed since the Board’s last monthly update on April 4. He shared that community metrics remain low, and as a result school metrics remain low. Derksen shared that schools reported a total of 17 COVID+ cases since the April 4 update. Derksen shared that NCDHHS still recommends that masks remain optional in schools.
Following the update and recommendation, the Board, as required by general statutes, took action on its current masking policy. The Board unanimously approved keeping masks optional at school.
Board approves Memorandums of Agreement/Understanding
Career & Technical Education (CTE) Director, Beverly Boltinhouse, presented a WCPS-WCC HVAC Agreement at SWHS. Essentially the agreement will allow a CTE HVAC program to be housed at Southern Wayne High. Wayne Community College will provide necessary HVAC equipment that can be used in classes with WCPS students during the day and then utilized by the college for college classes at night. Mr. Foucht requested and was approved by the Board to be recused from the vote due to his involvement at Wayne Community College in drafting the MOU. The Board then approved the MOU.
Dr. Yvette Smith Mason, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources & Professional Development, presented two MOAs which were both unanimously approved by the Board:
Board policies reviewed and/or approved
During the General portion of the meeting, Dr. Yvette Smith Mason, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources & Professional Development presented a PLS Update. Henderson recommended a number of policies with language that included “Strongly Recommended” be referred to the Board Policy Committee for review.
Later in the meeting during its Board Action, four Board of Education policies were approved. Two polices were pulled for separate review at Board member request:
Policy 3225 Technology Responsible Use passed 5-2 with Board Members Leatham and Strickland voting against. Both Board members felt new language - specific to disciplinary actions for internet activity outside of school on non-school devices which “had a direct and immediate effect on school safety or maintaining order and discipline in the schools” - was not necessary because other policies could be applied in such instances. Board Member Strickland also felt new language could lead to an overreach of school discipline.
Policy 4002 Parental Involvement passed unanimously, but not before Board Members Foucht, Strickland, and Leatham requested that parents be notified about club opportunities in schools with available descriptions and permission slips to participate - language which could be added to Policy 3620 Extra Curricular and Student Organizations through the Board Policy Committee process.
The Board then unanimously approved the remaining two policies without discussion:
One individual addressed the Board during its Public Comment period on the following topic:
Andrew Steadman - Request of meeting/minutes and questions about finances
Board approves Purchase Orders & Contracts
Board accepts donations & Approves Consent Agenda
Chief Finance Officer, Leslie Rouse, presented a Donation Report with four donations equating to $2,150. The Board unanimously approved to accept the donations, which ranged from $150 for teacher and student supplies at Grantham Middle to $1,200 for field trip and school supplies at Brogden Middle. As noted in the Donation Report, WCPS has received $83,683 in donations since the start of the fiscal year (July 1, 2022).
The Board then unanimously approved its Consent Agenda, which included minutes, student reassignment requests and student transfers.
Superintendent discusses previous debt & Corrects misinformation about ESSER funds
Prior to closing comments, Vice-Chair Burden asked Dr. Lewis to clarify how its prior $5 million in debt was paid off, as information was incorrectly being generated in the community and amongst the public that the school district had used federal ESSER COVID relief funds to pay off the debt. Dr. Lewis clarified that the district reduced its debt by getting staffing formulas aligned with personnel allotments from the State, consolidating programs, and reducing staffing positions in schools and at the Central Services through attrition. Dr. Lewis shared that at the time, much of the debt was a result of well-intentioned efforts to over-staff schools to help reduce class sizes and increase numbers of electives being offered without having adequate funding from the State to cover personnel costs. Dr. Lewis said ESSER funds were not used to reduce debt and no one was let go as a result of the financial crisis. The district also received clean audits of its ESSER funds because the funds were appropriately used for the purposes for which that funding was intended.
Board Meeting Resources for the May 2, 2022 Meeting
The full May 2, 2022 Board Meeting can be viewed by clicking on Video Link.This meeting and past meeting videos can be viewed by clicking on the following Board Meeting Videos Link. The April 4, 2022 Meeting agenda and associated materials presented to the Board can be viewed by clicking on Meeting Link.
DISTRICT 1: Mr. Don Christopher West (Chair) - firstname.lastname@example.org
DISTRICT 2: Mr. H. Len Henderson - email@example.com
DISTRICT 3: Ms. Patricia A. Burden (Vice-Chair) - firstname.lastname@example.org
DISTRICT 4: Mrs. Jennifer S. Strickland - email@example.com
DISTRICT 5: Craig Foucht - firstname.lastname@example.org
DISTRICT 6: Mr. Wade Leatham - email@example.com
AT LARGE: Mr. J. Tommy Sanders III - firstname.lastname@example.org