By Jeremiah Reed
Staff Writer 

Board Of Education Welcomes New Face - Brevard NC


Clerk of Court Rita Ashe (right) swears Ron Kiviniemi on to the Board of Education. Kiviniemi’s wife, Ann, holds the Bible. (Times photo by Jeremiah Reed)

It was a busy Monday night for the Transylvania County Board of Education as one member departed, one came on board, and members heard the results of a recent interest inventory on magnet schools and calendar options.

The meeting began with newly appointed board member Ron Kiviniemi taking the oath of office. As his wife, Ann, held the Bible, Kiviniemi was officially sworn in by Clerk of Court, Rita Ashe. Ashe also swore in incumbent board members Tawny McCoy and Cindy Petit.

After the ceremony and calling the meeting to order, board chair Chris Whitmire announced he would be resigning his position on the board effective Jan. 1, as he transitions to his new position as a N.C. House Representative for the 113th district.

Whitmire has served on the Board of Education since 2006 and has been board chair since 2009. He thanked the board members for all the work they were able to accomplish during their time together.

In a written statement, Whitmire said he considered it “an incredible honor to have been a part of this tremendous team.”

After his resignation announcement, board members elected McCoy to serve as new board chair and Petit to serve as vice chair.

It was then time to get down to business as David Sutton, executive director of human resources, federal programs, policy and accountability, presented the board with the results of an online survey that was available earlier this year to parents and faculty members.

The survey asked respondents to gauge their interest levels in a potential magnet school in Transylvania County, as well as asked their opinions about calendar options for the 2013-2014 school year.

Participation in the survey was fairly high, with 470 parents and 232 instructional personnel members responding.

In the area of magnet schools, both parties seemed to be receptive to the idea. Sixty-one percent of parents responded that they were either “very” or “somewhat” interested in a magnet school option for their child, with 20.7 percent saying they would need more information before making a decision.

That number was slightly higher than 55.9 percent of personnel who said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in a magnet school option, with 20.2 percent saying they needed more information at this time.

When asked about concentration areas for a potential magnet school, both parties responded with virtually identical numbers. Both agreed that a STEM school (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) was the most attractive option, as it received 59 percent of votes from parents and 57.3 percent from personnel. Visual and performing arts was second on the list, with 30.6 percent of parents and 32.4 percent of personnel choosing it as the most attractive option for a magnet school.

When asked if a magnet school option was available at their child’s school next year, 49.9 percent said they would keep their child enrolled and participate in the magnet school, with only 6.2 percent responding they would keep their child enrolled but not participate.

An even smaller number of parents, 1.7 percent, said they would enroll their child in a different school without a magnet school and 42.2 percent said they would need more information before making their decision.

The most interesting results came in the calendar portion of the survey.

Respondents were given three calendar options that were made possible based on a change in state law that allows school districts to choose a calendar based on a certain number of days or a certain number of contact hours.

Option one is based on the traditional school model and featured a 185-day calendar. Option two featured a 180-day calendar that met the minimum of 1,025 contact hours. Option three was a modified calendar that featured 180 days of instruction but ran longer, with classes starting in late June and ending in early May.

The major difference between options two and three was that under option three at the end of every quarterly grading period, students would receive a two-week break. While this may be a minor difference to some, it proved to be a major breaking point for others.

Respondents overwhelmingly chose the traditional 180-day calendar and the modified 180-day calendar as the most appealing choices. Parents preferred the traditional 180-day calendar (47.6 percent) and personnel chose the modified 180-day calendar (51.7 percent).

“What this tells us it that broadly speaking, there is roughly an equal number of people who like the traditional 180-day calendar and the modified 180-day calendar,” Sutton said.

However, the response to another question on the survey was even more intriguing. When asked which was the least appealing calendar option of the three, 46 percent of parents chose the modified calendar, as did 34.3 percent of personnel.

Sutton said this showed opinion over the modified calendar was sharply divided between strong support and ardent resistance, as opposed to the traditional 180-day calendar that had solid support but no outspoken critics.

“Parent opinions about calendar model three, the modified 180-day calendar are more polarized than opinions about calendar model two. Which is to say, people either love the modified calendar or they hate it. People either love the traditional 180-day calendar or they like it pretty well and therein lies the difference between that odd statistic,” he said.

Board members thanked Sutton for his work on the survey and agreed to revisit the survey and its findings in greater detail at their annual planning retreat Feb. 4.


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