Board To Discuss How To Retain Teachers - Brevard NC


December 24, 2018

Transylvania County Schools Superintendent Jeff McDaris and school members plan to discuss teacher retention and the impacts of opioids, vaping and other drugs at a work session in February.

During last Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, school board member Alice Wellborn said that after looking at the personnel reports, “I’m very concerned about teacher retention.”

She said in the past the board has talked about the teacher supplement and the housing situation in Brevard.

“Good teachers are getting harder to come by. It concerns me,” said Wellborn. “We’re only as good as the teachers we have.”

McDaris said there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of college students enrolling in teacher education programs, but the numbers are starting to “creep back up.”

“They’re not nearly to the levels they once were,” said McDaris.

School board member Marty Griffin said the county needs to increase the local teacher supplement.

“We have promised this to the teachers and they’ve not seen it,” said Griffin. “That’s a big issue for me.”

Teachers receive a local 8.5 percent supplement, but it was supposed to gradually increase to 10 percent.

Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi said the teacher supplement increase needs to be included in next year’s budget.

Wellborn also said she would like an update on the opioid and vaping issues in the schools.

“We can talk about the opioid issue and vaping,” said McDaris.

He said Transylvania County and other school systems are starting to see problems with Juuls.

“They are a new e-cigarette,” he said, adding that Juuls have a much higher concentration of nicotine than traditional cigarettes. “We believe, on the education side, that they are designed to target young people and to increase nicotine addiction.”

McDaris said they are purposely designed to look like memory sticks inserted into computers and are difficult to detect because they emit no smoke or scent.

“You can’t tell. They look very similar to that. It’s a problem and we’re starting to see it more often,” he said.

Kiviniemi said one of the advertisements touts that in can be concealed in a closed hand.

McDaris said Juuls fall under the school system’s e-cigarette policy.

“They cannot have them. If we catch them, we enforce policy,” said McDaris.

He said there are those who are experimenting with adding other types of mixtures, such as marijuana, in the Juul that would not be easily detected.

Griffin asked what drugs the county’s drug testing procedures would detect.

McDaris said they could detect marijuana but not tobacco.

“I consider the Juul issue a pretty serious issue, quite frankly, because they are pretty hard to detect,” said McDaris.

Targeted Schools

Dr. Jeremy Gibbs, chief academic officer for Transylvania County Schools, reported that the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan has been implemented. The ESSA is a replacement of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the state’s ESSA plan, targeted schools that are not meeting certain standards and are able to receive additional financial assistance fall into two categories: Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (TSI).

Though there are no low-performing schools in Transylvania County, schools that received a D or F report card and are not meeting growth, for schools are classified as either CSI or TSI.

Davidson River School has been designated a CSI school because it has a graduation rate of 30.2 percent.

Schools with a graduation rate of less than 66.7 percent are considered CIS-LG (low graduation rate) and eligible for additional funding.

Gibbs also said the ESSA breaks down performance into subgroups, such as race, students with disabilities and English language learners. He said that of the state’s approximately 2,600 public schools, more than 1,600 were identified as TSI due to performances by some subgroups.

He said more than 60 percent of schools statewide classified as TSI were classified as such due to the performances of students with disabilities.

There are four schools in the county classified as TSI: Brevard Middle, Pisgah Forest Elementary, Rosman Middle and Davidson River. Brevard Middle and Rosman Middle were classified TSI due to students with disabilities scores while Pisgah Forest Elementary was classified TSI due to students with disabilities and English language learners. Davidson River was classified TSI due to the scores of its white students.

Gibb said the ESSA operates on a three-year process. The current data provides a baseline and the schools will be re-evaluated in three years to determine if they still meet the CSI or TSI classifications. Gibbs said the classifications would allow the school system to apply for non-competitive grants for the TSI schools. Those grants would be relatively small, such as $8,000, and would be used to improve instruction for targeted groups.

Gibbs said the school system would probably receive a larger grant for Davidson River School, similar to the one it has received in the past for anywhere between $60,000 to $80,000.

He also said there would be some highly competitive grants, possibly up to $1 million to be distributed over three years.

Davidson River would be the only school in the county eligible for such a grant.

Statewide Bond

McDaris said the state General Assembly last year decided not to pursue a statewide school bond referendum.

“They appear now to have changed their minds,” said McDaris.

He said House Speaker Tim Moore has announced plans for a $1.9 billion education bond next year. If it passes the legislature, it would be on the ballot in 2020.

McDaris said that under Moore’s proposal, most of the money would go toward building new schools and $600 million would go to the public universities and community colleges.

He said that while the money would be appreciated, by the time the money is disbursed among 115 school systems “it’s not as large a number as people might think.”

Griffin asked how the funding for the statewide bond would be set up because in the past it was indicated that Swain County would have received $11 million and Transylvania County would have received just $1 million.

Kiviniemi said Swain would have received more money because it is considered a smaller and poorer school system, even though Transylvania has just 200 more students than the cutoff to be considered a small school system.

Griffin said voters statewide would be voting on the bond, but all of the voters would not be “getting a fair share” of the proceeds.

“I like helping other people, but at the same time I don’t see any equity in this,” said Griffin.

McDaris said he did not know if the money would be allocated on the number of students in a school system or the economic status of a county.

“I don’t have enough data to answer that question yet,” said McDaris.

Other News

•The Transylvania County School Nutrition Program ranked second out of 100 counties in providing meals to needy students through the 2018 Summer Nutrition Program. The service operated 34 sites from which a total of 26,448 meals were served this summer. On average, there were 463 children who participated in the program each day.

•Griffin and newcomer Courtney Domokur were sworn as members of the Board of Education by Clerk of Superior Court Kristi Brown.

•Tawny McCoy was unanimously re-elected as chair and Kiviniemi was unanimously re-elected as vice chair.

•The board approved 31 policy updates that contained mostly minor changes.

•North Carolina leads the nation with the most nationally board certified teachers.

Of the 120,000 nationally board certified teachers in the U.S., NC has 21,985 nationally board certified teachers. Statewide, 22.1 percent of North Carolina teachers have gone through the national board certification process.

“We currently have 40 national board certified teachers in our county,” said McDaris.

Important Dates

•School will resume for students on Thursday, Jan. 3. Teachers will have a workday on Jan. 2.

•The first semester ends Jan. 17. Teacher workdays will be held Jan. 18 and 21.

•The next school board meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Morris Education Center.

•The District Science Fair & Expo will be held Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. in the Rogow Room of the Transylvania County Library.


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