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Board of Education Meets and Discusses County Vehicles, Yearly Audit, and Hurricane Florence Aftermath

By Bethany Stephens

The Board of Education met this Monday for their monthly session where the board was recognized and presented gifts from the county’s schools and various departments in honor of School Board Appreciation Month. Both West Bladen High School and Bladen Lakes Primary had made videos with students thanking the board for their service.

Katie Johnson, teacher at East Bladen High School, and Brooke McMichael, E.C Compliance Specialist, were both unable to attend the meeting but were recognized for having recently earned their National Board Certifications.

Attendance awards were presented next, and Plain View Elementary won in the Elementary School Division. Tar Heel Middle School won in the Middle School Division, and Bladen County Early College won in the High School Division.

Sharon Penny, Finance Director, presented a financial summary for information purposes only. Penny and Lou Nelon, Maintenance Director, proceeded to update the board on insurance and FEMA claims being filed in response to Hurricane Florence’s damages. Penny explained that the board now has a representative as of December 17th. They are currently identifying the repair needs which include but aren’t limited to drainage and roofing concerns. Penny and the board discussed the need to use careful wording in the claims since other schools’ claims have been denied due to minor wording errors. The board also discussed possible ways to fairly compensate personnel who worked at the shelters during Hurricane Florence. Since the state forgave the days missed during the hurricane, the board now has to work out a fair way to compensate the workers that worked the same hours as other county personnel not affected by the forgiveness of the days.

Next year’s calendar was discussed, and the board agreed to consider classifying the county’s schools as year round to allow them more flexibility in making the schedule. The board would like to optimally make it so that students taking semester long classes in the Fall would be able to take their exams before Christmas break instead of after.

A consent agenda including fundraiser requests, overnight field trip requests, and a CTE Honors Course Approval (none were discussed aloud) were all approved. A budget amendment was approved to accommodate additional funding that has been received from Medicaid, hurricane donations, and Driver’s Education fees.

A man from Anderson, Smith, and Wyke presented the board’s yearly audit report. The goal of the yearly audit is to assure that the board’s paperwork and finances are in compliance with updated legislation. The audit covered from July 2017 until June 30th, 2018. Other than wanting the board to work towards increasing their depleted fund balance (that was depleted more than usual due to Hurricane Florence), the audit’s findings looked good.

Last month, some board members expressed concerns about assigned vehicles being taken out of the county (which happens when a worker that lives out of county is allowed to take the vehicle home overnight). Cory Singletary, Board Member, felt that the vehicles should be kept in the county and that workers should come to work in their personal vehicles and be able to use the vehicles only during working hours. This issue hasn’t come up in the past since no one assigned a vehicle lived out of county where now the maintenance director lives in Cumberland County. Since there is no concrete policy in place, the board agreed to temporarily table the issue until they can formulate a policy that would account for on-call workers and other logistical concerns. Following the above, the board proceeded to go into closed session to discuss personnel, student transfers, and legal issues.

Upon reconvening open session, the board approved two personnel action items as recommended by Dr. Antonia Beatty, Personnel Director. Dr. Robert Taylor, Superintendent, invited the board to ride in Elizabethtown’s upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. Before adjourning, Chris Clark, Board Member, had heard from some concerned mothers regarding security cameras at East Bladen High School’s campus, and Jason Atkinson, Technology Director, promised to email Clark when he got the rest of the information.

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