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By Bethany Stephens

The Board of Education met this past Monday for their monthly session where, after approving the minutes from both their March 11th and March 19th meetings, they recognized Tara Rogers, Madison Bullard, Kacy Gunter, Alyssa Bell, and Autumn Brisson for having participated in the State FCCLA Conference and for having brought home top honors. The students were taught by their CTE teachers, Deborah Kinlaw and Gail Marsh.

Monthly Attendance Awards for the month of April were presented next. Plain View Primary School won in the Elementary School Division; Tar Heel Middle School won in the Middle School Division, and Bladen Early College High School won in the High School Division.

Sharon Penny, Finance Director, presented a financial summary for the month of March for information purposes only. Amy Stanley, Child Nutrition Director, gave a presentation on the Child Nutrition Program. Stanley spoke well of the Nutrition Program’s employees and explained that their employees had received 1300 professional training hours (which is well over USDA requirements). The program consists of a head director, a bookkeeper, a training manager, and 45 employees which include 11 managers and 2 co-managers. Some of the programs and services provided by the department include the national school lunch program, a school breakfast program, a fresh fruit and vegetable program in the elementary schools, an after school snack program, an at-risk supper program at East Bladen high school, and a summer food service program. Stanley listed the programs income sources and told how much the program makes per student meal. The program hopes to focus on increasing student meal participation, lowering expenses surrounding labor, food, supplies, and equipment purchases, and expanding the summer feeding program to reach under served families.

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Dr. Robert Taylor, Superintendent, outlined the Student Services Department’s programs. Specifically, the county’s migrant program was mentioned since Bladen County’s Migrant Program is the largest one in the state. Taylor explained that ESL services are often confused as being the same as the migrant program, but they are not the same though they often work together. ESL is for any student whose who uses English as a second language, and the Migrant Program focuses on children of migrant farm workers. Since the migrant farm workers mostly speak Spanish, they and other Spanish speaking students make up 97% of the ESL program. School nurses are also a part of student services, and the county currently has seven school nurses. Taylor outlined the funding sources for the various programs. The migrant education program gets its funding from Title 1 Part C funds; The English language Learner Program receivesTitle 3 Part A funds, and the school nurses receive funds from the School Nurse Funding Initiative. The program’s top 3 areas of focus include increasing student achievement, helping students to be engaged and supported, and increasing student retention and graduation rates. Bladen County Migrant population has an 89.5% graduation rate which is the highest in the region.

Lou Nelon, Maintenance Director, gave updates on maintenance projects across the county. A meeting to discuss bids on Elizabethtown Primary Drainage Project (in the school’s parking lot) will happen soon. The project is expected to happen over the summer. Pre-bids for roofing on the bus garage and for work on the roofs at East Bladen High School and West Bladen High School (which were all damaged during Hurricane Florence) are being prepared. All of the roofing projects plus air quality testing that was done due to hurricane damage is being funded by the Tier 1 Hurricane Recovery Fund.

The board approved a consent agenda that included fundraiser requests and overnight field trip requests. They then proceeded to go into closed session to discuss personnel, student transfers, and legal issues.

Upon reconvening into open session, the board approved personnel action items as recommended by Antonia Beatty, Personnel Director.

Dr. Taylor outlined several notes of interest and upcoming events. He explained that a $90,000 SRO Grant was available for this year and next year to provide SRO training. A youth risk behavior survey will be given to all high school and middle school students next week. Kristin Cooper, wife of North Carolina’s governor, is visiting Bladen County’s schools on Tuesday, April 9th. Specifically, Cooper works with school breakfast programs. Taylor asked the board to consider when they wanted to meet to prepare a budget proposal to be presented to the County Commissioners, and the board promised to arrange a date.

Lastly, Taylor spoke of logistics of building new facilities in the future. He explained that the debt on the high schools would be paid by 2020 and 2021. The freed funding would hopefully be able to help fund the new facilities in 2022.

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