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By: Bethany Stephens

The Board of Education met for a long meeting this Monday night where they recognized several students and teachers for their achievements, heard from two concerned community members regarding the special needs program, and got an update on requests they made at last month’s meeting. Several other points of interest were discussed- especially regarding improvements to, and the legislation surrounding, implementation of the Child Nutrition Program.

The board first recognized several teachers and students for their various achievements. Several teachers were recognized for being chosen to serve as each of their respective school’s Teacher of the Year. The following teachers received this recognition: Kathryn King of Booker T. Washington, Angela Campbell of Bladenboro Middle, Tracy Miller of Bladenboro Primary, Lisa Park of Bladen Lakes Primary, Sherry Hays of Clarkton School of Discovery, Jessica Smith of Dublin Primary, Christina Jacobs of East Arcadia School, Jennifer Hair of East Bladen High School, Paige Priest of Elizabethtown Middle, Sandra Britt of Elizabethtown Primary, Sandra Hopkins of Plain View Primary School, Mary Ann Pait of Tar Heel Middle, and Amber Young of West Bladen High School.

Jennifer Hair, East Bladen High School’s Teacher of the Year, was also chosen to present Bladen County as the countywide Teacher of the Year for the 2015-2016 school year. Tar Heel Middle School’s principal, Kimbrie Esters, was chosen as Bladen County Principal of the Year and was also recognized.

Two Bladen students recently won in the first place in the State Soil and Water Conservation Education Contest. Julia Deavers from Bladenboro Primary won first place in the 4th Grade Poster Contest, and Nick Norris from Clarkton School of Discovery won in the 6th Grade Slideshow Contest.

Three West Bladen High School Students competed in the State FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) Convention where Megan Bennet, Madison McLamb, and Allie Marsh won silver medals and were recognized as a club for increasing their club’s membership and for participating in the chapter flag parade during the opening session of the conference. The club and led by Debra Kinlaw and Gail Marsh, both Career and Technical Education Teachers at West Bladen.

Under the instruction of their teacher, Mark Allen, Forty-two West Bladen students earned their Microsoft Office Certification. The following students were presented certificates for earning the certification: Logan Autry, Laura Bellamy, AJ Council, Kevin Cruz, Khalyah Davis, Taisha Dixon, Caleb Dowless, Selene Flores, Jason Eason, JEnna Floyd, Cody Garner, Kaitlyn Gause, Elsie Guzman, Kelly Hewett, Tierra Hooper, Chelsea Howard, Cornelius Jarmon, Jamie LAndetta, Judy Lopez, Hayleigh Mark, Madison Meares, Sydney Mitchell, Ashley Mitchell, Joe Monroy, Ryan Morris, Nate Nucci, Adam Packard, Laikyn Paint, Jessica Perez, Taylor PRiest, Andrew Shephard, Danquitta Ransom, Abigail Simmons, Mason Smith, Austin Smith, Charity Taylor, Diana Torres, James VanDeBogart, Alexis Townsend, Melody Weathers, Aisha Whitted, and Mikayla Winebarger.

Three West Bladen High School students were also recognized for being selected to attend the Governor’s School Summer Program 2015 Summer Session, a residential program for academically or intellectually gifted high school students. Maria Gonzalez, Claire Parris, and Nikki Locklear were chosen to attend the program.

East Bladen’s Lady Eagles Basketball Team were recognized for earning an overall record 26-1 and a conference record of 14-0, having a conference player of the year, three All Star team conference players, an All-State named player, a North Carolina Coaches Team Selection player, an All- Area First Team player, an All-Cape Fear Region First Team player, a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame US Army Award of Excellence, a Team Defensive Player of Year, a Time Warner Scholar Athlete of the Week, a Mountainaire Athlete of the Month, a North Carolina High School Athletic Association Clary Medal recipient, a conference leading points per game player, a second leading conference rebounds per game player, three conference leading assists per game players, two conference leading steals per game players, three conference leading blocks per game players, four conference leading field goal leaders per game players, one conference leading free throws per game player, two conference leading 3-point leaders per game players, a team that made it to the 2A State Championship Playoffs, advancing to the third round, a coach who received the State Victory Club award for her 400th career win, and a coach that will serve on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors.

The successful team consists of players Abby Ward, Michelle Page, Lexie Mendell, SharDajah Brown, Emily Scott, LAcey Suggs, Miller Heustess, Danielle McDowell, Christiana Cromartie, Imani Turner-Dobson, Lexi Dawson, and Abby Norris. Alan West and Megan Kirby serve as the team’s assistant coaches, and Patty Evers, recipient of the Victory Club Award from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and member of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s Board of Directors, serves as the team’s head coach. Grey Cabellero serves as the team’s manager, and Anna Brewer, Morgan Higgins, and Joy Matthis are the team’s statisticians.

The following West Bladen High School students were recognized for earning ServSafe Certification under the instruction of the Foods 2 Teacher, Gail Marsh: Alexis Becerril, Amber Bills, Brianna Childress, Mariela Gutierrez Delvalle, Malique McDowell, Ashley Mitchell, Kaycei Pait, Chasidy Saraidaris, Chance Saxon, Madison Singletary, Jaylan Staten, Taylor Tatum, Abygail Wright, and Jose Zuniga.

Three Clarkton School of Discovery 7th graders were recognized for qualifying to participate in the Duke Talent Identification Program, and three schools were presented Attendance Award Banners. Plain View Primary won the banner in the Elementary School Division; Clarkton School of Discovery won in the Middle School Division, and West Bladen won in the High School Division.

Anna Bristow from NCDPI, presented a slideshow that outlined changes and legislation in the Child Nutrition Program. Bristow, along with Amy Stanley who serves as the county’s Child Nutrition Director, explained several grant opportunities that Stanley has found, applied for, and been awarded, various legislation and how that legislation affects the taste of the food, the way reimbursements are given from the federal and state levels, meal costs, and snacks provided during school hours versus after hours (such as the ones sold at sporting events). After Bristow’s presentation, the board went into their first closed session of the night.

Upon reconvening from the first closed session, the board heard from Chris Clark and Chris’ mother, Brenda Clark, regarding concerns that they had brought to the board pertaining to Chris’ son’s schooling – over the last two months especially and in the time since he has returned to school per his doctor’s recommendation. Chris Clark said that he had made the board aware of the issues surrounding his son, Cody, and the Exceptional Children program two months ago, brought the issue before the board at the last board meeting, and received a letter from the Dr. Robert Taylor, Superintendent, that said that funding would not allow the board to place a full time Special Needs teacher at Bladen Lakes (where Cody attends 1st grade). Later, during the board’s second closed session, Chris explained that he was requesting that the board provide training to the special needs coordinator and teachers already in place (since he felt that they were not as knowledgeable as they need to be regarding special needs and the legislation surrounding it) and to put a full-time special education teacher in place at Bladen Lakes since there are now 20 special needs children at the school.

Additionally, Chris explained that Cody’s doctor told his family that Cody did not need to attend a contained classroom – which is what the county currently offers. When asked what the board was planning to do with the information and when they would give the Clark’s the information they requested, such as board employees’ salaries and the like, the board deferred to Dr. Taylor. In response, Chris countered by saying that it was up to the board in the end and that, since the board had not responded in depth to the issue since he first brought it to their attention, he and his family were planning on filing a lawsuit against the state and the Bladen County Board of Education and were planning on getting in contact with various news sources such as WRAL and WECT. Following the Clark’s comments and questions, the board proceeded to go into a very lengthy second closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters.

Upon reconvening from the second closed session, the board heard from Amy Stanley, Child Nutrition Director, where she followed up on the information that Anna Bristow and presented earlier in the meeting. Additionally, Stanley told the board about a recent Equipment Assistant Grant that she had applied for and that has been awarded to the county. The $107, 096.36 grant will be used to purchase and replace several old pieces of equipment across the county.

Sharon Penny, Finance Director, gave the board a financial summary for information purposes, and Reida Roberts, Director of Exceptional Children’s Service, told the board about a meeting that will take place this coming Friday at 1 pm concerning anyone in the county who has a special needs child – whether they are enrolled in the public schools or in any other school (such as home schools and private schools). Roberts explained that, while limited, special needs students in these other schools were also eligible for assistance from the state and county. The meeting will be for any of the public who wants more information regarding this and the Bladen County Special Education Local Plan.

Jose Rodriguez, ESL and Migrant Director, spoke with the board next and outlined a program called Into the Fields for migrant students in conjunction with the Student Action with Farm-workers organization. The intern opportunity is available to students who are 3 to 21 years old and have parents that have to move to provide farm labor, have not earned a diploma nor an equivalent, and have had to move in the last 36 months.

The board approved 6 Personnel lists as recommended by Antonia Beatty, Finance Director, and voted to not approve an Administrative Contract list.

Approval was given to apply for Lottery Funds to replace a roof at Plain View Primary. Purchase of a new dump truck from Capital Outlay funds was approved as well as two fundraiser requests and two overnight field trip requests. Willa Dean Williams, Career and Technical Education Director, presented the CTE Local Plan for 2016-16 which was also approved. A change to a 10 point grading scale (instead of the current 7 point grading scale) in the schools was approved as well as School Advisory Councils for East Bladen, West Bladen, Elizabethtown Primary, Dublin Primary, and Booker T. Washington Primary schools. A 1:1 Laptop Refresh/Renewal Contracted Lease Agreement was tabled until a future meeting.

Before adjourning for the evening, Dr. Taylor, Superintendent, reminded the board of an upcoming board retreat at Allen Brothers Hunting Preserve, and told the board that possible consolidation of some of the county’s middle schools will be discussed at the June meeting.