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2020-21 Board Meeting Minutes » October 5, 2020

October 5, 2020

October 5, 2020
The Board of Education of the Wilkes County Administrative Unit conducted a regular meeting in the Stone Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, October 5, 2020 at 5:30 PM at 613 Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina 28659. COVID-19 guidelines were enforced.
Present for the meeting were Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook, Vice-Chairman Mrs. Sharron Huffman, Board Members Mr. Kirk Walker, Mrs. Joan Caudill, and Mr. Hardin Kennedy, III. Also present were Superintendent Mr. D. Mark Byrd, Chief Technology Officer Mrs. Julie Triplett, Chief Finance Officer Mr. Seth Prevette, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Donna Cotton, Director of Pre-K and Elementary Education Mrs. Callie Grubb, Director of Exceptional Children Mrs. Jennifer Blankenship, Director of Student Services Mrs. April Marr, Director of Child Nutrition Mr. Marty Johnson, Director of Maintenance Mr. Bergie Speaks, Director of Middle School, Federal Programs, Interim County Athletic Director, & Cultural Arts Dr. Joe Bullis, AIG Coordinator Mrs. Angie Lamb, Public Information Officer Mrs. Morgan Mathis, and Executive Administrative Assistant Mrs. Carolyn Triplett.
Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook recognized Board Member Mrs. Sharron Huffman to lead the Invocation.
Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook called the meeting to order.
On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Walker and duly carried, the agenda needed to be amended to include to Roman Number XI, Item D to which the Easement Agreement for a new Emergency Medical Service (EMS) station was added.
On a motion by Mr. Kennedy, seconded by Mrs. Huffman and duly carried, the agenda was approved.
Chairman Mr. Randall “Rudy” Holbrook recognized Superintendent Mr. Mark Byrd for the Superintendent’s Welcome and Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. Byrd advised the Board, staff, and the community members present that Wilkes County Schools lost a tremendous friend and supporter of our school system last week, as Mr. Blake Lovette passed away earlier in the week. Mr. Lovette served on the Wilkes County Schools Board of Education in the late 1990s and continued to support our school system until the time of his passing. We would like to let his family know that they are in our thoughts and prayers and that we appreciate his support and service to our school system.
Moreover, when I use the word service, I have to mention three groups of people in our system who are making tremendous efforts to serve our students during this pandemic. First, October is National Principals Month, and I do not do enough to recognize the efforts of our school leaders. I think we are fortunate to have twenty-two of the strongest school leaders in our area, and they are doing an outstanding job in a challenging time. I will say without a doubt that their job was harder than mine was nine years ago when I was last a Principal, and I know it is harder now than ever before. I hope the people of this county realize how fortunate we are to have the school leaders that we do, and we all owe them a big “thank you” for all that they do. I look forward to having them all attend a board meeting so that we can recognize them when restrictions will allow.
Last Friday was National Custodial Worker’s Recognition Day, and I need to publicly thank all custodial staff of Wilkes County Schools for their additional efforts in cleaning and sanitizing our schools during the 2020-2021 school year. Their work has always been important, but probably more now than ever before. Our local health director has told me herself that the cleaning efforts of our people are making a tremendous difference in keeping school safe for students and staff, and in allowing our schools to remain open despite challenges. I never thank them enough, but we all need to take a minute to thank our custodial staff for their extra efforts in keeping all of us safe during this challenging time. You are all great examples of the unsung heroes who make a difference in the lives of students every day!
In addition, if we are going to talk about heroes, I have to talk about the work of the teachers of Wilkes County Schools during the 2020-2021 school year. I heard on the news that today is “World Teacher Appreciation Day,” and I doubt that you can find a group of teachers anywhere in the world who are working harder for students than those in Wilkes County Schools. Our teachers are meeting the needs of students in their classes, those who are remote, and spending countless hours at night reaching out to students and parents to address their challenges and concerns. Teaching is more difficult and challenging in 2020-2021 than ever before, and I need to publicly recognize our teachers for what they are doing. So many of our teachers are stressing over the fact that they don’t feel that their students are being as successful as in years past, and looking for what they can do more to help students succeed. Even though teachers worldwide are feeling this, that still does not make it any easier for our people. Imagine going to work daily, facing greater challenges than ever before, and then not feeling that you were being as effective in your work as in previous years. Each of us should take the time to say “thank you” to our teachers because I do not think you will find teachers in this state who are doing more for their students than ours. I have always said that students in Wilkes County deserve the best of everything, and I can assure you that no students in our state are being better served by their teachers than ours are right now.

Superintendent Mr. Mark Byrd along with Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Donna Cotton, presented the Governor’s School students for 2020. The Governor’s School of North Carolina is a five and one-half week summer residential program for intellectually gifted high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses. The curriculum focuses on the exploration of the most recent ideas and concepts in each discipline and does not involve credit, tests, or grades. Wilkes County Schools had five students selected by the state Governor’s School committee to attend during the 2020 summer session; however, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Governor’s School was canceled and these students did not get to participate:
MaryAnna Bailey is a current 12th grader at WCHS. She was selected to attend Governor’s School West on the campus of High Point University. MaryAnna’s focus of study was dance.
Noel Pratt is a current 12th grader at WCHS. She was selected to attend Governor’s School East, on the campus of Meredith College. Noel’s focus of study was Social Sciences.
Lauren Pyke is a current 12th grader at WCHS. She was selected to attend Governor’s School East on the campus of Meredith College. Lauren’s focus of study was English.
Jonas Scott is a current 12th grader at WCHS. He was selected to attend Governor’s School East on the campus of Meredith College. Jonas’s focus of study was Visual Arts.
Clara Spears is a current 12th grader at NC School of the Arts. While at WCHS, she was selected to attend Governor’s School West on the campus of High Point University. Clara’s focus of study was Instrumental Music.
Congratulations to all these students on being selected for such a wonderful honor.

Superintendent Mr. Mark Byrd provided an update regarding COVID-19 and the Transition to Plan A for Grades K-5. On Thursday, September 17, Governor Roy Cooper announced that school systems across our state could transition to Plan A for students in Grades K-5 effective Monday, October 5, 2020. After gathering feedback from local health officials and from Elementary Principals, Wilkes County Schools' recommendation is to return to Plan A for grades K-5 effective Tuesday, October 20, which begins the second grading period.
Points to Remember about Transition to Plan A:
  • Parents were asked to make a commitment by Friday, October 2nd if they planned to change the current method of delivery of instruction for their students. While we do not have the final numbers for tonight, roughly 79% of our students in grades K-5 are attending in person, and while some schools have seen a few changes in what parents prefer, as a whole, the numbers are remaining consistent. Keep in mind, these numbers vary from school to school.
  • Remote Learning only will still be an option. We asked that parents commit to remaining Remote through the end of the fall semester (January 14, 2020, if they chose to do so). Parents have the right to transition to remote at any point if they do not feel it is safe for their child to attend in person.
  • Social distancing of 6 feet is not required in the classroom but will be continued to the best extent possible. The key point is seating charts so we can determine who would need to be quarantined in the event of a confirmed case in a classroom.
  • Masks will still be required at all points during the day, with the exception of periods of strenuous exercise and meals. Mask breaks will still be allowed for all students and staff.
  • Same precautions for entering schools remain in place - temperature checks and screening questions.
  • We were advised to continue to operate bus transportation for Plan A much the same as we had for Plan B, which meant one student per seat, with the exception that family members and siblings, could sit together. This is recommended but not required. Much like in the classroom, we will do this to the best extent possible. While we originally thought this would be a challenge, due to a decrease in ridership, we feel this will be doable. This will be a challenge at some schools and on some routes. Temperature checks and masks on buses will continue to be a requirement. Our transportation office is currently finalizing routes to be ready to operate under Plan A by October 20.
  • We have planned for additional custodial hours at each elementary school to allow for additional cleaning that will be required at the school level.
  • Our health director has shared that she feels very good about the return. Her greatest areas of concern are bus transportation and making sure that we still socially distance to the greatest extent possible and maintain clear seating charts for classrooms and buses.
  • Meals will continue to be eaten in the classroom. Mr. Johnson estimates that we will be able to serve over 1900 more lunches per day than we are able to on an A/B schedule.
  • Nine of 13 K-5 Principals surveyed said they preferred students return under Plan A effective October 20, while the other 4 would have preferred October 5. Two main reasons for choosing October 20 is to allow a day for transitioning, such as removing or returning furniture to classrooms, and this allows a clean start for all as we begin the second grading period.
  • We may have to make adjustments as we go, but I wanted you to be aware of what specifics we have planned for.
  • Basically, this allows for students in grades K-5 who feel comfortable returning to the classroom to return, and those who prefer to remain remote can do so.
Once more, it is our recommendation that our students in grades K-5 return to school under Plan A effective October 20, 2020.

On a motion by Mr. Kennedy, seconded by Mrs. Caudill and duly carried, the Transition to Plan A in Grades K-5 effective October 20, 2020 was approved.

Mrs. April Marr, Director of Student Services, presented Focus on the Curriculum. Mrs. Marr outlined how we are supporting student and staff social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental health concerns. She explained what SEL is, how we are integrating it into meetings and classrooms this year, how school counselors also address the skills in their work with students, and how we are partnering with community agencies to provide mental health supports when students/staff need more than we can offer through school counseling. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. During COVID-19, we have seen changes in routines, learning, health care, life events, and the loss of security and safety. Steps have been taken to meet these needs such as:
  • Daily Meal Service
  • New routines for schools that incorporate COVID-19 safety protocols
  • Daily check-ins with students/parents or guardians
  • Integrating Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) instruction into every classroom every day
  • Clear access points for student instructional support staff
  • Community partnerships to provide ongoing mental health and family supports
Every Wilkes County School classroom is incorporating the three signature SEL Practices in all lessons (Face to Face and Remote):
  • Welcoming/Inclusion Activity – Setting the Tone
  • Engaging Practices & Pedagogy – Sense-Making, Brain Breaks & Transitions
  • Optimistic Closure – Reflections & Looking Forward
School counselors at all levels developed virtual counseling offices and webpages to help students and parents access help when it is needed. Many have created virtual faculty/staff rooms to help their colleagues find ways to manage the emotions they may be feeling related to COVID-19 as well. Therapeutic classrooms where students with behavioral, emotional, or social needs that cannot be met in the regular academic setting can receive weekly individual therapy, participate in small group counseling, and set individual goals for improvement in these areas so that they can return to the regular education classroom setting. Jodi Province Counseling provides therapeutic support for staff while Wilkes County Schools supplies the educational staff. A support line called Hope4Healers Helpline was expanded to serve North Carolina Teachers, school personnel, and their families. Hope4Healers is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Chairman Mr. Rudy Holbrook asked if anyone had signed up for Public Comments. No one had signed up.
On a motion by Mr. Walker, seconded by Mrs. Huffman and duly carried, the minutes for September 14, 2020 were approved as presented.
On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Walker and duly carried, the Personnel Report was approved as presented.

Resignation(s) and/or Retirement(s)

Frank Anderson – Custodian – Central Services

Retirement effective – December 1, 2020 with thirteen years and six months of service

Kimberly Bauguess – Teacher – C.B. Eller Elementary School

Retirement effective – January 1, 2021 with twenty-nine years and two months of service

Janette Caudill – Teacher Assistant – C.C. Wright Elementary School

Retirement effective – January 1, 2021 with thirty-two years and five months of service

Rickie Holloway – Teacher Assistant – Mountain View Elementary School

Retirement effective – January 1, 2021 with thirty-eight years and six months of service

Janice Scercy – Child Nutrition Assistant Manager – Mulberry Elementary School

Retirement effective – January 1, 2021 with twenty-five years and three months of service

On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mrs. Caudill and duly carried, the 2020-2021 Comprehensive Continuous Improvement Plan Application for Federal Funds was approved as presented. The Comprehensive, Continuous Improvement Plan (CCIP) is a web-based planning and grants management tool, and connects district goals for improvement with budgeted activities. CCIP is used by school districts to apply for federal funds.

On a motion by Mrs. Caudill, seconded by Mr. Walker and duly carried, the Graduation Project Revisions for Class of 2021 were approved as presented. Because of the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Graduation Project requirements have been revised for the graduating class of 2021. They are as follows. In order to keep students safe, we have removed the requirements for working with a mentor. We have also removed the requirement for a product or project. Many families are facing severe financial constraints because of the pandemic and we do not want to add to those. Seniors will be required to complete three forms requesting approval for the topic of their Graduation Project (contract, proposal/approval, and proposal letter). Many seniors had already completed these forms during their junior year. The remainder of the Graduation Project for the 2020-2021 seniors will consist of a research paper and a presentation of their research to a panel. The graduating seniors in the 2021-2022 school year will follow the former guidelines for the Graduation Project.

Chairman Mr. Holbrook had the following announcements: 
  • October 19, 2020 – Remote Student Learning/Required Teacher Workday
  • October 19, 2020 – First Grading Period Ends
  • October 20, 2020 – Second Grading Period Begins
Chairman Mr. Holbrook announced the next meeting to be November 2, 2020. The meeting will be held in the Stone Center for the Performing Arts located at 613 Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina beginning at 5:30 PM.

On a motion by Mrs. Huffman, seconded by Mr. Kennedy and duly carried, there being no further business, the Board adjourned at 6:20 PM.
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