By Charlotte Smith
During the last Board of Education virtual meeting, the members’ sought guidance from the board’s attorney, Gary Grady, on topics about agenda items and personnel files. Before the board discussed legal issues, the board covered other items on the agenda with Glenn McKoy, Board Vice-chair leading the charge.
Bladen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor gave an update on COVID-19 and the planning needed before starting the new school year. Taylor went over three versions of what schools may need to do with social distancing. There needs to be a minimal, a moderate, and remote learning social distancing plan in place.
According to Sharon Penny, Finance Director with the Schools, 4,000 face masks for Bladen County Schools employees have been purchased. The masks for students plan is still to be determined, according to Taylor.
According to Taylor’s update, plans for addressing the at-risk populations, hygiene, monitoring symptoms, communication, and combating miscommunication are all areas needing to be covered by the Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Dr. Taylor stated he hoped to have plans in place by mid-July if not sooner.
The State Board of Education (SBE) and NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), in consultation with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), released Lighting Our Way Forward: North Carolina’s Guidebook for Reopening Public Schools in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis on June 11, 2020 with detailed information on how education systems may reopen.
Taylor announced the summer hours for Bladen County Schools staff have also changed. Most employees will work Monday through Thursday from around 9 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m. and telework from home on Fridays.
The Emergency Leave pay for Bladen County Schools staff expired on June 15.
Board member, Alan West made a remark about the NCDHHS publishing guidelines for high school and youth sports. West asked if Taylor knew anything about practice starting for the fall sports. Dr. Taylor said he would be speaking with the Athletic Directors and School principals about the fall sports.
A question was raised by board member, Dennis Edwards, about rising ninth graders touring the high school campuses since they were closed. According to Dr. Taylor, middle schools and high school will need to develop a virtual transition right now for rising middle school and high school students.
The Child Nutrition Equipment request and school nutritional bids were approved with no discussion by all board members. Dr. Taylor announced Bladen County Schools almost reached 500,000 with their nutrition program this past school year.
Summer Feeding Program began on June 15, 2020. This year, however, the program will operate differently than in previous years, according to the Schools’ official site. Find out more about the program and the bus routes by visiting the Bladen County Schools website.
Sharon Penny, Finance Director, provided a financial summary for May to the board members.
Penny presented a budget amendment request for federal allotments and sales tax income. Board member Gary Rhoda said he was not clear on the budget amendment’s information provided to him. The vote passed seven to one with Rhoda voting against the amendment.
Board member, Cory Singletary, asked if the board members could be given the budget information more than three days in advance. Penny said she would be working on the budget right up until the next meeting, but she could meet with Singletary if he wants to review the information. She gave the district office hours as stated above 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Dr. Taylor explained the Bladen County Board of Commissioners approved funding to Bladen County Schools at the same funding rate as last year. He continued announcing plans of adding a Migrant Program Director to the Bladen County Schools staff because the Stated funded $150,000 for migrant education. This past year Bladen County had to give back the migrant funding to the state because the Schools did not have a Migrant Program Director.
According to Penny, the continuation budget was requested to be approved because the State budget has not been approved, and the Schools need to continue to pay employees and bills. The continuation budget passed with all eight board members voting for the motion.
The Spring Custom Policy and the Renewal Errors and Liabilities Insurance motions also passed unanimously. According to McKoy, the board went into closed session for personnel issues and student reassignments for Rights and Family Act. The board returned back to open session shortly after the closed session.
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Administration, Dr. Antonia Beatty requested a motion for the board members to approve two classified personnel action items. There was no discussion about the details with the classified items. Both action items passed with Rhoda and Singletary voting against the motion, and the other board members present voting for the two classified personnel motions.
Rhoda and Singletary expressed concerns about personnel records not being disclosed to them, even though it is the board members’ right to review any employee records. Dr. Beatty asked the board’s attorney for clarification on the board members’ rights to personnel files. Grady, the board attorney, explained each individual board member has the right to review employee files. Beatty asked if an employee was under investigation could the board members see those records. Grady explained if the investigation records are in the employee’s files, the board members have the right to see the information.
Dr. Taylor explained some procedures for board members to review employee records. The board members must sign in and out at the district office at the time of the visit and ask to see Dr. Beatty. No records can leave the files.
Singletary raised another concern. He stated his desire to have items added to the agenda, but he has been unable to have items added to the agenda. Grady explained the agenda is made by the chairperson of the board in consultation with the superintendent. However, any board member, upon one week’s notice, can ask for an item to be placed on the agenda prior to the adoption of the agenda. The agenda has to be approved by the majority vote. The agenda may be modified after approval but must receive two-thirds votes for approval.
Before adjourning Dr. Taylor noted he would be constructing a “Superintendent Cabinet” and scheduling committee meetings. Edwards remarked about using the boards leadership to help the unrest in the community. Taylor said the board would release a statement. The statement was released on June 15, 2020.
Any person wishing to share comments or concerns with the board during the citizen participation section of the agenda needs to email their comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 12 noon before the next board meeting. The next scheduled board meeting will be about the budget on Monday, June 29, 2020 at 6 p.m.
Board members present at the virtual meeting on June 8, 2020 was Glenn McKoy, Board Vice-chair, Chris Clark, Dennis Edwards, Berry Lewis, Gary Rhoda, Vinston Rozier, Cory Singletary, and Alan West. Chairperson Roger Carroll was not in attendance.