The Transylvania Times -

By John Lanier

Law May Impact Art, PE, Music In Schools – Brevard NC


January 19, 2017

Members of the Transylvania County Board of Education Tuesday night expressed concern about legislation that could cause the school system to do away with art, music and physical education in the elementary schools.

According to Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris, the legislation, which was passed last session but has yet to be implemented, would mandate smaller class sizes in elementary schools. But the law was written in such a way that it also restricts how money can be allocated. As a result, there may be no money to hire art, music and PE teachers.

“It has monstrous ramifications for all school systems,” said McDaris, who added that the issue is “of great concern to superintendents across the state.”

McDaris said the mandated reduction in class sizes may force school systems to add classrooms to various schools, regardless of those schools having the land or money.

He said local school boards may then be forced to seek more money from their local county commissions to comply with the legislation.

Board member Marty Griffin said the legislation not only may cause the school system to lose certain teaching positions, but it also restricts the school system from adding any new programs. He said that it would be beneficial if they could offer foreign language in the elementary schools, “but we can’t even think about that.”

Board Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi recommended that the board pass a resolution and contact state officials stating the board’s concerns about the legislation.

Board member Betty Scruggs said the county commissioners should be aware of the impact of the legislation because it could require the school system to seek more funding from the county.

She also suggested that the commissioners might want to join in the resolution, which would make it more powerful.

Board Chair Tawny McCoy said she would contact members of the county commission about signing a resolution of their own or joining the school board’s resolution.

McDaris said he had a meeting with state Rep. Cody Henson scheduled for Wednesday morning and he would bring the issue up with him at that time.

He also said he would contact state Sen. Chuck Edwards about the issue as well.

Instructional Update

Jeremy Gibbs, chief academic officer for the school system, informed the board about various efforts to teach students more than just reading, writing and arithmetic.

He said the schools are also teaching students other necessary skills: leadership, digital literacy, communications, emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship, global citizenship, problem solving and teamwork.

Gibbs said some examples of these skills were quite obvious while others were less obvious.

He gave examples of the Marine Corps ROTC program as promoting leadership, use of computers to conduct surveys and present results as promoting digital literacy, and creating products and participating in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) as promoting entrepreneurship.

Gibbs also said schools are teaching more life skills through programs such as Reality Check, which helps students determine how much money they will need to live a certain lifestyle and the vocations that will afford them to pay for those lifestyles.

He said the school employees are constantly looking at ways to help students prepare for the future.

“We’re far more than test scores,” said Gibbs.

Kiviniemi said a lot of people underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence and the need for people to connect with each other. He gave an example of a brilliant college professor he had who looked out the window when lecturing because he could not make eye contact with his students.

“Emotional intelligence is extremely important,” said Kiviniemi.

Bus Safety

Board members discussed changes to transportation policies in regard to improved safety.

Kiviniemi asked which buses had assistants riding on them to help monitor behavior.

Brian Weaver, senior director of human resources, said a few of the buses have assistants and they are moved as needed. He also said the three new buses with seat belts have assistants to make sure students are wearing the seat belts.

Kiviniemi asked how long it would be before all of the buses had seat belts.

McDaris said the state does not replace buses until they have traveled at least 200,000 miles.

Last year the school system received three new buses; it has a fleet of 35 buses.

Griffin asked if the county was responsible for all bus repairs prior to a bus reaching 200,000 miles.

McDaris said the state would assist if there were a problem with the engines, but it is usually the seats and other items that wear out before the engines.

“They’re built like a tank,” said McDaris.

Norris Barger, director of business services and plant operations, said if a bus breaks down and cannot be fixed, the state would send the school system a used bus.

McDaris said today’s buses are “heavily computerized” and that those who maintain them are highly trained.

“It’s tremendous what our bus garage is doing for the safety of our kids,” agreed Weaver.

Other News

•Barger gave a brief presentation on the capital updates for this year.

Griffin asked about a leaking roof at Davidson River School in the counselor’s office.

Barger said that has been a constant problem where they plug one hole and another one appears. He said a new roof is needed.

McCoy said a number of school facilities need to be renovated, but praised the maintenance staff for keeping the schools operating.

“They do a great job,” said McCoy.

Barger said the school system is responsible for 11 buildings and hundreds of acres, but there are only seven folks in maintenance.

“That’s a big job for seven folks,” he said.

The board tentatively agreed to hold its annual tour of school facilities on Jan. 26 and 27.

•The board discussed holding meeting in various communities regarding school needs and a possible bond referendum. McCoy suggested the board hold two large meetings, one at each high school, followed by smaller meetings in individual communities. She said the meetings should begin in February.

Griffin said Monday nights would be the best time because there are sporting events on the other nights and many residents attend church on Wednesday night. He suggested the first two meetings be held on the same night as regular board meetings with the first hour dedicated to discussing facility needs with community members, followed by the regular board meeting.

“We’re going to the public,” said Griffin. “They’re the ones who are going to make the decision.”

He added that by people coming to the schools for the meetings and seeing the condition of the schools, “It might open a few eyes in those communities.”

•The board will hold a work session at which no votes will be taken on Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the Morris Education Center. Items to be discussed are the 2018 budget, master facilities plan, capital and technology, social media, student growth by quartile, high school scheduling, and the SPIRIT initiative.

•Kiviniemi presented a chart comparing salaries and responsibilities of school board members and county commissioners.

He said he would like the board to discuss the differences at the next board meeting.

•The board agreed to formulate a resolution returning more control of the school calendar to local districts. The resolution would be forwarded to state representatives and senators.

Superintendent’s Update

•McDaris said high school graduations would be held at the Brevard Music Center with Brevard High’s ceremony planned for the evening of June 9 and Rosman’s ceremony planned for the morning of June 10.

•McDaris said there is the possibility that funding formulas at the state and federal could change in the coming year.

•McDaris said he had been contacted by the state to learn more about the school system’s virtual days.

He said that after Hurricane Matthew hit the eastern part of the state, wildfires occurred in the Western part of the state and a snow storm shut down the central part of the state, state officials at the Department of Public Instruction became more attuned to how schools deal with making up days lost due to natural events.

“I think they are very interested,” said McDaris of the school system’s virtual days.

•McDaris reported that another study showed that two-thirds of the children attending public schools in North Carolina live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“That is an increase in 2009,” said McDaris.

He applauded efforts at the local level to address the issue, but noted that statewide the increase in poverty correlates with fewer children ready for kindergarten.

Important Dates

Jan. 23 is a teacher workday. Students have no school.

The Transylvania County Schools District Science Fair will be held Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 in the Rogow Room of the Transylvania County Library.

Feb. 15 is an early dismissal day for students. Students will be dismissed at 12 p.m.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Education will be Monday, Feb. 20, at 6:30 p.m.


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