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On Monday, May 17, 2021, the Bladen County Board of Education approved to conduct the meeting virtually and in-person for Board members, with the remaining public virtual. Parents and concerned citizens were outside protesting.

The last Board meeting held on April 19, 2021, the Board of Education announced the meeting was to be virtual and in-person. Charlotte Smith with BladenOnline was in attendance representing the press. However, Smith was told by school staff and a Bladen County Sheriff’s Deputy she could not attend the meeting.

WWAY Reporter Matt Bennett tried to enter the Bladen County Board of Education meeting on May 17, 2021, but was denied entry. There were protestors at the Bladen County Schools District Office during the session. The group spoke with Countywide Bladen County Board of Education member Dennis Edwards before entering the Board meeting. Edwards explained to the protestors his feelings about the public and press not being allowed in the Board meetings. He noted there are many facilities available in Bladen County that would facilitate open meetings for all who want to attend. 

Protestor and local grandmother Tammy Heath announced a public meeting on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, at the Bladen County Schools District Office for a Bladen County Schools Foundation fundraiser and suggested another protest be held during the meeting Tuesday May 18, 2021. Wayne Schaeffer, Chair of the Bladen County Republican Party, and one of the protestors agreed with Heath, and the protestors decided to meet the following day again. 


However, on Tuesday, May 19, 2021, when protestors appeared at the Bladen County District Office for the public meeting, there was a note on the door announcing the meeting had been rescheduled to the fall of 2021. Heath was collecting signatures against the new standards and said she would continue to collect signatures.

During the Monday Board meeting, Edwards also addressed the concerns about opening the meeting to the public repeatedly with the Board of Education members saying, “Why as a Board, aren’t we allowing the public in? We have gymnasiums and other facilities. Why are we just confined to this area? We have access to bigger areas. I think we are kind of going in the wrong direction, in my opinion.”

He added, “Let’s get the public involved, and let’s get the children involved, and I think a lot of this would be a lot more transparent to the community. I feel like we are doing the wrong thing by the community.”

No other Board members addressed Edwards’ concerns. 

Before adjourning the meeting, Bladen County Schools Superintendent announced the plans to organize advisory committees, which will include community members, parents, staff members, and students.

Dr. Atkinson also noted, the North Carolina Department of Instruction is scheduled to release the unpacking documents and other information regarding the Social Students Standards. 

The State Board of Education will meet Wednesday and Thursday, June 2 and 3, starting at 10 a.m. in the 7th floor Board Room, Education Building, 301 N. Wilmington Street, Raleigh. On June 2, 2021, the meeting’s agenda lists items for discussion about the new Social Studies documents and discussions on revisions for Science Standards and Healthy Living Standards.

The agendas for this meeting and executive summaries are available online.

The State Board’s committee meetings and full Board meetings will be audio streamed for those unable to attend. To provide comments or feedback regarding specific agenda items, please email State Board members individually or email general comments/feedback.

After the information and consent items were discussed, the Bladen County Board of Education Chair, Roger Carroll, mentioned the agenda item listed as “CM at Risk Presentations.” Under this agenda item, it was announced there would be presentations from two contractor finalists for the Tar Heel Middle School project.

Bordeaux Construction of Raleigh, N.C., and Metcon Construction of Pembroke presented information about themselves and information about the Tar Heel school construction idea. There was no decision on hiring a contractor made during the open meeting. 

After the May meeting was adjourned, BladenOnline and WWAY reporters tried to question Dr. Atkinson. Dr. Atkinson told WWAY reporter Matt Bennett, “No comment at this time; follow up with Mrs. Newton, please.”

Listen to part of the almost three hour Board of Education May 18, 2021 meeting and protestors on our YouTube Channel linked below:

Since the meeting, BladenOnline staff members have emailed, called, and stopped by the Bladen County Schools District Office to ask questions readers have been submitting. Dr. Atkinson and Mrs. Newton with the Bladen County Schools were asked the following questions. Mrs. Newton replied back by email, stating, “These are the responses that Superintendent Atkinson is providing to your questions in consultation with the NCDPI and with BCS’s Accountability director.”

1. How can a parent volunteer to be on an advisory committee? 

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “Schools will begin the planning process this summer to reimplement their parent advisory committee for the fall 2021; schools will recommend a parent representative from their school to serve on the district level parent advisory committee. The district level committee will include a parent representative from each school. Any parent that wishes to volunteer as a representative will be encouraged and welcomed to participate on the committee.”

2. What questions did Dr. Atkinson send to the State Board of Education about the Standards?

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “I did inquire with the NCDPI social studies department about the opportunity to view the unpacking documents, glossary of terms, standard maps, and crosswalk documents for the social studies standards in advance. Based on the 5 year implementation timeline developed by the State Board, these documents should be approved at their June meeting for initial implementation to begin in the fall 2021.”

3. Has the State Board replied to Dr. Atkinson’s questions and if they have, what did they say regarding the standards? 

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “I was informed that districts would not receive these in advance. These draft documents should begin to be uploaded in the State Board’s online meeting platform for review by the public for at least 48 hours before the State Board’s next scheduled meeting time, provided there is no delayed action by the State Board.

Additionally, our Board follows its local board policy 3110 for curriculum and instruction.” (BladenOnline has provided a link to the policy referenced. Click on the blue highlighted text to read more.)

4. Has Bladen County Schools taken any action on an alternative school?

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “The Board has not taken any specific action on opening an alternative school. I was not serving as Superintendent during this time and am not aware of any specific actions or directives that may have been discussed between the Board and the previous Superintendent. The high schools currently have an alternative learning program within their school.”

5. Has the Bladen County Board of Education gave a plan of action for the new Tar Heel School building after it is constructed? 

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “In November, 2021, the Board approved the construction of a new PK-8 school in Tar Heel based on a plan provided by Dr. Taylor.”

 What students will be attending the new school? 

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “Students from Plain View and Tar Heel.”

 Will other schools be closed? 

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “Plain View will be closed.”

6. Can Principals deny parents the choice to hold their children back?

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “Per NCGS 115C-288, the principal has the final authority to grade and classify students. Principals consider classwork and grades, the student’s scores on standardized tests, and the best educational interests of the student with regards to promotion or retention. Parent consultation with the principal is one component of the placement of a student.”

7. When will the 2021 EOG test results be returned to parents?

Superintendent Atkinson statement read, “After certification from the NCDPI, principals were notified that student EOG scores in Reading, Mathematics, and Science from grades 3-8 could be released to parents on 5/25/2021. EOG Grades 3–8 Reading will be available upon the North Carolina State Board of Education’s adoption of academic achievement standards and cut scores for reading (expected August 2021).”

The next Bladen County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 14, 2021, at 6 p.m.

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