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2019-20 Board Meeting Minutes » April 6, 2020

April 6, 2020

Summary of Board Minutes

April 6, 2020
Meeting Held Virtually

The Board of Education of the Wilkes County Administrative Unit conducted a regular meeting virtually due to the COVID-19 guidelines on Monday, April 6, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. at 613 Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina 28659.
Present for meeting were Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook, Vice-Chairman Mrs. Sharron Huffman, Board Members Mr. Kirk Walker, Mrs. Leslie Barnes and Mr. Darren Shumate. Also present were Superintendent Mr. D. Mark Byrd, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Westley Wood, Chief Technology Officer Ms. Julie Triplett, Chief Finance Officer Mr. Seth Prevette, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Donna Cotton, Director of Pre-K and Elementary Education Ms. Callie Grubb, Director of Exceptional Children Ms. Jennifer Blankenship, Director of Student Services Ms. April Marr, Director of Child Nutrition Mr. Marty Johnson, Director of Maintenance Mr. Bergie Speaks, Director of Transportation Mr. Eric Barker, AIG Coordinator Ms. Angie Lamb, and Executive Administrative Assistant Ms. Carolyn Triplett.
Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook called the meeting to order.
Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook recognized Board Member Mr. Darren Shumate to lead the Invocation.
On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Shumate and duly carried, the agenda was approved as presented.
Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook recognized Superintendent Mr. Mark Byrd for the Superintendent’s Welcome and Pledge of Allegiance. Superintendent Mr. Byrd shared the following:  When we left our Board Meeting on March 2, 2020, I had no idea how our world would change before we had a chance to meet again. And while our area has been much more fortunate than many, the challenges presented to our district by COVID-19 are of a historical proportion. Just as historical, however, are the efforts of the staff and students in this school system to make sure that others are taken care of. On the Friday before Governor Cooper closed schools on March 14, Marty Johnson told me he had a plan in place to feed students if we were closed. On the afternoon of Sunday, March 15th, I met with Dr. Westley Wood, Julie Triplett, and Eric Barker and discussed what to do moving forward. From that point forward, the people of this school system have continued to amaze me with what they are doing for our community. Instead of telling me what we can’t do, people are coming forward asking what they can do! Last week, I had a parent in tears telling me about seeing our staff members standing in the rain making sure that kids were fed, and that not a single day had gone by without one of her children being called by a teacher to make sure that they were doing okay. The parent told me that our staff are being true heroes to the people of Wilkes County during these challenging times. On Friday, Dr. Donna Cotton and I rode a bus with the staff of Wilkesboro Elementary School to feed kids, and heard one of those heroes, Jasmine, tell us that she could not take off for Spring Break because she would be so worried about whether or not kids were being fed! While I can assure you that we have and will continue to face challenges that we have never seen, because of the efforts of our staff and students in caring for others, I have never been as proud to be the Superintendent of Wilkes County Schools as I have been over the past 3 weeks. You may have noticed that we don’t have good news items listed as an agenda item tonight, and that is because we wanted to wait until later to invite a crowd and recognize students for their accomplishments. However, the updates you will hear in just a minute about what is being done for students and staff will serve as the best good news items we could have. And, we as a system, a county, a state and a nation, need to focus on the good news around us, as that will help us to defeat this terrible virus. I usually tell you each April that this is one of my favorite times of year, and even though this year is different, the things that really make this month special have not been taken from us by COVID-19. We need to use this challenge as a reminder to us all about what really matters. Thank you all for your support. I hope that all of your families stay safe and peaceful. I hope that everyone has a wonderful Easter and enjoys their Spring Break! And, I can’t wait until the day that the 9,500 students and 1,600 staff members walk back through our doors, and we get back to school as we know it!

Due to COVID-19 we had updates from the following Directors:
Feeding Programs was presented by Mr. Marty Johnson. Meal Service began March 17, 2020 with breakfast and lunch service in a drive through set up at twenty locations. Due to staffing, some locations may be combined. Principals and building staff have created Community Stops utilizing yellow bus transportation and school vehicles to deliver meal service in needy areas throughout our county. At lunch service each day, lunch for the current day and breakfast for the next day is available for children between one and eighteen. The breakfast car line participation was created to help families who may not have received a lunch the previous day, however, due to low participation in the community, this will end on April 9, 2020. Families will still receive lunch for the current and breakfast for the next day at the lunch service. We will not operate on Friday, April 10th, however, meal service will be provided on Thursday for Friday breakfast and lunch along with Monday breakfast for the 13th. We will operate Spring Break Week. The total meals served March 17th through April 6th was 153,098. This total includes breakfast and lunch. On behalf of the Child Nutrition Department, Mr. Marty Johnson thanked everyone for their support during this time.
Employee Options were presented by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Westley Wood in regards to personnel matters and employee options as they relate to COVID-19 and the closure of schools in North Carolina. Dr. Wood thanked all of our administrators as they have been patient and flexible as we navigated through the past several weeks of information that at times has changed daily. In regards, to decisions around personnel, the actions that Wilkes County Schools has taken has come in three phases:
Phase 1 began with Governor Cooper’s Executive Order to close schools due to COVID-19. Due to this decision, March 16th became a required teacher workday which will be taken from March 27th. This required workday allowed additional planning, communication, and correspondence with NCDPI and others to begin. March 16th became a “No Day” for Teacher Assistants that was taken from March 20th. All other employees followed normal procedures for a Required Teacher Workday. On the afternoon of March 16th, additional communication was provided to all employees in regards to expectations for March 17th-20th. March 17th-20th became Optional Teacher Workdays for certified staff in which they could work or take available leave. These days became regular workdays for non-certified staff, however, employees could take leave if they wished. Guidance from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction allowed flexibility of job duties in relationship to the funding source. This allowed all employees the ability to work with the understanding that duties could be altered to fit the needs of the school to maintain employment.
Phase 2 began on Monday, March 23rd in an effort to begin to reduce the amount of interactions between staff as it related to guidance coming from NCDPI and Governor Cooper. Beginning on March 23rd, employees who directly served students in instructional duties were allowed to work remotely at home with provided expectations. Employees who could not work from home were allowed to take appropriate leave if they preferred not to work during this time. On the afternoon of March 27th, the North Carolina State Board of Education passed a policy regarding State of Emergency Sick Leave that would begin on April 1 with an end date of April 30 unless extended by the State Board. April 1st began the current phase or operational procedures we are following. March 29th and 30th were spent communicating to principals, directors, and bookkeepers about specifics of the policy. To summarize the policy, it allows for up to 168 hours of emergency sick leave to be provided to employees for the month of April (prorated for employees who work less than 40 hours per week). The leave can be granted to the following:
1) High Risk Employees:
  • Employees 65 years or older; having underlying health conditions; or weakened immune system or as identified by state or federal health officials as high risk.
  • Employees providing care to someone at high risk.
  • Telework if feasible. If not, emergency sick leave should be used.
2) Employees who cannot work due to childcare or needs related to COVID-19
  • Employee may work from home if feasible. If not emergency leave can be used.
3) Employees who are sick due to symptoms consistent with the virus, employees caring for someone who has symptoms of the virus, or employees who have been advised by their health care provider to self-quarantine.
The policy also provided an additional 96 hours of emergency sick leave to employees for the dates of March 16th-March 31st for employees who may have met the previous criteria.
During this phase, work from home to the greatest extent possible has been encouraged. Administrators and directors have worked to identify employees that have duties that are considered mandatory in relation to operational needs across the district. In order to lessen the number of employees at sites, employee schedules may have been altered or employee work hours reduced in a way that still meets operational needs. Hours not worked due to an altered schedule or reduced hours can be accounted for through the use of emergency sick leave. This leave has no negative effect on employees. The State Board policy mimics the Federal Family First Act and the expansion of FMLA, however is in addition to the Federal benefits.
Technology update was presented by Chief Technology Officer Mrs. Julie Triplett. Our schools have reached out to students and parents to determine how many students have Internet access at home. Approximately 80% reported they have home Internet. Some are using cell phones with limited data plans, which may limit how long they can be online. In our elementary schools, around 40% of students are doing online learning. Approximately 60% of parents have requested paper/pencil packets for students. We know that some of these students are also completing select assignments online. About 50% of our middle school students have checked out their computers for home use. All of our high school students have their devices for home use. We have encouraged our teachers to continue to use the tools they know and our students have used throughout the year during this time. Teachers are relying heavily on Google Classroom, Class DoJo, and Canvas, since these are the platforms they have consistently used with students. To support teachers and online learning, our digital learning facilitators are available by phone and email. They are holding virtual office hours to support teachers. This morning about 40 teachers took advantage of this opportunity. They have also scheduled online training opportunities for teachers to continue professional development. Our technicians are providing telephone and email support to students and staff for technical needs. We continue to support our students and staff during this time of remote learning.

Focus on the Curriculum was presented by Chief Academic Officer Dr. Donna Cotton in two areas:  (1) Wilkes County Schools remote learning plan, and (2) Grading recommendations from NCDPI. Wilkes County Schools has created Remote Learning guidance for our schools in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Dr. Cotton explained the expectations of the teachers and administrators at our schools in regard to planning, implementing, and assessing remote learning. Remote learning is defined as learning that takes place outside of the traditional school setting using various media and formats, such as but not limited to:  video conference, telephone conference, print material, online material, or learning management systems. During Remote Learning, WCS will focus on engaging students in remote learning more than evaluation of work, providing meaningful feedback to students regarding their work and progress, and to follow NCDPI’s Critical Factors for effective remote learning:
  • Learning is accessible by all students meeting all diverse needs;
  • Consistent communication between teachers and students;
  • Priority standards and skill development are the focus;
  • Includes evidence of student learning; and
  • Considers the whole child, including the home learning environment.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has released guidance for the evaluation of student progress and graduating seniors during times of remote learning. This guidance was presented to the North Carolina State Board of Education on Friday, March 27, 2020. The NC SBE approved the recommendations presented by NCDPI. Dr. Cotton presented what this guidance means for the students of Wilkes County Schools. All final evaluation of learning for students will be based on our last day of face-to-face instruction, March 13th. Any additional learning, feedback, or grading will only enhance a student’s final grade. The school year is not over; we expect learning to continue until the end of the school year. For grades 9-11, course credit and grades for Spring 2020 courses will be based on the first nine weeks grade and any feedback or grades given during remote learning. Transcripts will be carefully reviewed to determine which courses are graduation requirements and ensure we support students’ successful completion of those courses. For seniors, they must meet the State Board of Education’s 22 graduation requirements. Fall courses stand as they are and grades count in GPA. Spring courses will receive a Pass or Withdrawal based on their learning as of March 13th for all spring courses. If a senior was passing on March 13th, they will receive credit for that course with a PC19 on their transcript. At this time, graduation is still planned for the end of the year. If a senior is not passing graduation requirement courses on March 13th, the teacher will provide remote learning opportunities for the student to improve to a passing grade. Instruction for senior courses will continue through the end of the school year. The school year is not over; we expect learning to continue until the end of the school year.

Graduation Project Requirements for the Class of 2020 was presented by Superintendent Mr. Mark Byrd. Wilkes County Schools Board Policy 3460 requires each senior to successfully complete a Graduation Project in order to graduate. Due to challenges presented to the Class of 2020 by the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is our recommendation that this requirement be waived for the Class of 2020. This waiver would apply to those who were not able to complete their project in the Spring Semester due to school closures, as well as those who still may be resubmitting work after the fall semester. We truly believe waiving this requirement for the Class of 2020 reduces the stress and anxiety level of many or our students during an already challenging time. All board members were in agreement to waive this requirement for the Class of 2020.

Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook asked if anyone had submitted public comments. No one had submitted comments.
On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Shumate and duly carried, the minutes for March 2, 2020 were approved as presented.
On a motion by Mrs. Barnes, seconded by Mrs. Huffman and duly carried, the Personnel Report was approved as presented.

Resignation(s) and/or Retirement(s)

Anita Blackburn – Teacher – West Wilkes Middle School

Retirement effective – July 1, 2020 with twenty-three years and seven months of service

Dawn Longbottom – Teacher – East Wilkes Middle School

Retirement effective – July 1, 2020 with thirty years and five months of service

Sharon Lytton – Teacher Assistant – Millers Creek Elementary School

Retirement effective – July 1, 2020 with twenty years and four months of service

Doyle Miller – Maintenance Worker – Maintenance Department

Retirement effective – July 1, 2020 with twenty-one years and six months of service

Doug Reeves – Teacher Assistant – Moravian Falls Elementary School

Retirement effective – July 1, 2020 with eight years and three months of service

On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Shumate and duly carried, the Out-of-County/Overnight Field Trip list was approved as presented.
School Group Destination Dates
North Wilkes High School Men's Basketball
Rock Hill, SC

On a motion by Mrs. Barnes, seconded by Mr. Walker and duly carried, the Bid Renewal presented by Child Nutrition Director, Mr. Marty Johnson was approved. The following suppliers agree to the same or reduced cost to the Child Nutrition Program/Department:
  • US Foods Service
  • Foster Caviness
  • Pet Dairy Ice Cream
  • Pet Dairy Milk
  • Dr. Pepper Bottling
  • Triangle Vending

On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Walker and duly carried, the Budget Amendments for the State Public School Fund was approved as presented and the amount is listed below:
Increase of State Public School Fund:  $41,620.00

On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Shumate and duly carried, the Emergency Resolution was approved as presented (see attachment one). This resolution grants emergency powers to the superintendent to address the expanding novel Coronavirus crisis. This order grants the superintendent the flexibility to act quickly to protect and provide for student and staff safety.

Chairman Mr. Holbrook had the following announcement:               
  • April 10, 2020 – Easter Holiday
  • April 13-17, 2020 – Annual Leave
Chairman Mr. Holbrook announced the next meeting to be May 4, 2020. This meeting will be held in the Arnold and Becky Lakey Boardroom located at 613 Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina beginning at 5:30 PM.

All Board Members thanked Wilkes County Schools for their leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Ms. Barnes, the Wilkes County Board of Education voted unanimously to meet in closed session at 6:35 p.m. for the following reasons:  to prevent the disclosure of information that is privileged or confidential under state or federal law, pursuant to N.C.G.S. §143-318.11(a)(1); to consult with its attorney in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege, pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 143-318.11(a)(3); and to consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee, or prospective public officer or employee, pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 143-318.11(a)(6).

No further business was presented, and upon a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Shumate, the Board of Education adjourned from closed session to return to open session at 6:48 p.m.

On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mrs. Barnes and duly carried, there being no further business, the Board adjourned from open session at 6:49 p.m.