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News from the Board -- March 19, 2020Posted by Jessica Coston on 3/19/2020 2:20:00 PM
On Thursday, March 19, the Onslow County Board of Education held an emergency meeting to consider a resolution granting the superintendent emergency powers to keep the district moving forward as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of the meeting’s only agenda item, the Board and staff took time to reflect on how the district’s COVID-19 efforts are going thus far. Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins said he was thrilled with the work being done across the district regarding digital instruction. He said that, while it is not ideal and still has a few things that still need to be figured out, he is proud of Onslow County’s preparedness for this situation and the way that administrators and teachers across the district have embraced virtual learning.
Next, Dr. CJ Korenek, OCS chief of human resources and student services, spoke to the work being done to ensure that all employees are taken care of and paid throughout the COVID-19 closures. Dr. Korenek shared that, while guidance from state officials has indicated that all staff must either be working or taking leave to be eligible for pay, district staff have been working to find ways to be more flexible and find opportunities for people to work remotely when possible. She said that guidance was given to principals earlier this week regarding teachers’ ability to work remotely if they are comfortable doing so, and that opportunities for other classifications of staff to work remotely are being considered. This includes school social workers, counselors, teacher assistants and more. As for staff that are currently still reporting to work normally, Dr. Korenek said that they are taking advantage of this time to plan, clean, organize, do training, and make repairs that are usually difficult to do with students in the buildings.
In the meeting’s only official order of business, Board members voted 6-1 to approve a resolution, recommended to them by the North Carolina School Boards Association, to grant the superintendent emergency powers to make necessary decisions as the district navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution allows the superintendent more flexibility to make decisions regarding staff assignments, school calendars, governmental waiver applications, curriculum, and more, which would normally require Board approval. This would allow him to make decisions more quickly, as is often needed during a rapidly evolving situation. These powers are entrusted in the superintendent under the understanding that he will continue to communicate with the Board and inform him of the decisions he makes.
The sole dissenting vote came from Board member Bob Williams, who cited concerns regarding the necessity of the resolution and whether or not it was wise to waive the requirement of Board approval for certain decisions.
News from the Board -- March 13, 2020Posted by Jessica Coston on 3/13/2020 4:30:00 PM
On Friday, March 13, the Onslow County Board of Education held an emergency meeting to receive and discuss the latest information regarding COVID-19.
OCS Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins started the meeting by saying that this is a time that the district has the opportunity to be calm, cautious, and deliberate as decisions are made regarding COVID-19. In his opening remarks, Dr. Collins clarified that, as of 11 a.m. on March 13, there were no plans to close Onslow County Schools. Dr. Collins said that that could change as circumstances change, and that the district plans to follow guidance from the Onslow County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also stated that the primary goals of Friday’s meeting were to discuss the latest information on COVID-19, get Board guidance on some of the decisions staff were facing, and hear from instructional staff on the district’s preparedness to move to digital forms of instruction in the event of school closures.
The first topic of discussion, presented by OCS Chief Operations Officer Steve Myers, was the issue of facility usage agreements and how those should be handled currently and moving forward as the COVID-19 situation develops in our area. He said that while the district has canceled all extracurriculars and after school activities, a decision needed to be made regarding outside organizations, like before and after school care programs and churches, that use district facilities on nights and weekends.
After much discussion regarding the types of organizations that use the facilities, the impact families would see following the closures of before and after care programs, and how to best make meaningful reductions in exposure, Board member Jeff Hudson made a motion that encompassed all of the guidance the Board had discussed.
Mr. Hudson made a motion to affirm the actions the Superintendent has taken to date to protect staff and students from the Coronavirus; and to affirm following CDC guidelines regarding school closures based on events as they occur in our community; and will not enact new rentals of facilities at this time; and with existing rentals of indoor facilities, encourage our tenants to limit gatherings to the extent possible; and if they choose to continue gatherings in our facilities, we will require a surcharge for disinfecting that portion of the facility they have rented so that we can better protect students and staff; and establish a trigger point for the Superintendent that either upon recommendation by the Onslow County Health Department or the first community confirmed positive for Coronavirus, that the Superintendent would notify our tenants and schools that we would suspend for a period of time their rental of school facilities until advised otherwise by the Onslow County Health Department, the CDC or other government agency. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wiggins and unanimously adopted by the Board.
Following the decision regarding facility usage, the Board heard from OCS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Folger, who shared the district’s plans for switching to digital instruction in the event of school closures. Dr. Folger shared that district is ahead of many other school systems when it comes to preparation for instruction going fully digital. All OCS student, grades 3-12, have school-issued devices and are well-versed in many of the tools that would be used for potential digital instruction.
Content such as iReady, Reading Eggs, ACT Prep, AP Content, and more are available to students in the cloud. Other programs, such as Ready Math, Plato, and Study Island, would allow teachers to select specific content and lessons and push them out to students entirely digitally. For students without access to the internet at home, Dr. Folger said that students could use their devices by connecting to public Wi-Fi sources. OCS Chief Technology Officer Jeff Pittman also said that instructional technology staff are aware of the accessibility gap in the county when it comes to internet connection and have been working with service providers to expand access and distribute Mi-Fi devices to students, in addition to the more than 275 already distributed.
For grades K-2, Dr. Folger said that teachers would be able to cover content through paper packets and worksheets.
News from the Board -- March 10 , 2020Posted by Jessica Coston on 3/11/2020 3:45:00 PM
The Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 10 at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. The meeting’s agenda items included a census presentation, an instructional technology highlight, 2020-2021 tuition rates, the Head Start Project approval, and Dixon-area redistricting.
Following former OCS Superintendent Rick Stout’s portrait presentation during the Good News Spotlight, the Board heard from OCS Chief Communications Officer Brent Anderson, who delivered a presentation on the upcoming 2020 census.
During this “Census Moment,” Mr. Anderson presented data from Onslow County’s 2010 census results that identified the county’s most difficult populations to count. The areas identified as low response targets following the 2010 census include the military bases, Southwest, Georgetown, East Northwoods, rural Richlands, Tract 22 (Western Blvd. To Brynn Marr and Country Club area), Hunters Creek, Piney Green and the Swansboro waterfront. In addition to those areas, the Census Bureau has identified veterans, those with a lack of trust in the government, renters, the homeless or displaced, minority populations, immigrant communities and children 0-5 years old as difficult to count. It is estimated that there were as many as 8,000 small children in Onslow County left uncounted following the 2010 census.
It is estimated that, due to uncounted residents in 2010, Onslow County missed out on $402 million in state and federal funding over the past decade. To prevent Onslow County’s population being underestimated again in 2020, Mr. Anderson said that he and other members of the Complete County Committee are working to educate residents on the benefits of the census and clear up any misconceptions people may have.
The Complete Count Committee would like for you to know:
- If you live in Onslow County, you count here.
- Military families should know that counting yourself in Onslow County will not affect residency or tax status.
- Families with children should count all of their children on their census form, including those under the age of 5.
- The 2020 census will NOT have a question regarding citizenship status.
- Employees of the Census Bureau will be visiting homes in hard-to-count areas.
Next, OCS Chief Technology Officer Jeff Pittman presented to the Board information about his department and the work they have been doing. Mr. Pittman shared that he and his staff are responsible for 27,000 computers, more than 800 network switches, 2,000 wireless access points, 1,800 phones, intercoms, and classroom technology like interactive whiteboards, projectors, printers, and more.
In the work they do, Mr. Pittman said that he and his staff have two primary goals: Impact Instruction and Impact Business. OCS Director of Digital Learning and Teaching Stephen Taylor said that the IT department impacts instruction by ensuring accessibility, equity and portability while increasing student engagement. Mr. Taylor said that tools like Microsoft Teams allow students to interact and collaborate like never before, making them more engaged with the material.
Mr. Pittman said that to reach their goal of impacting business, they are technical support for all district staff, streamline communications, and improve efficiency. The accomplishment Mr. Pittman said he is most proud of is the more than $5 million in infrastructure upgrades his department has made over the past 4 years, by finding federal funding sources.
Following Mr. Pittman’s presentation, OCS Chief Finance Officer Jeff Hollamon presented to the Board his recommendation for the 2020-2021 tuition rate for out-of-county students. The proposed rate was $2,204, which the Board unanimously approved.
Next on the agenda was a presentation from Luisa Davis, OCS Director of Early Childhood Initiatives, regarding the grant approval for the 2020-2021 Head Start Program. In her presentation, Ms. Davis shared details of the grant proposal, including a breakdown of how the $1,949,833 grant award would be used. She also shared the program’s four main goals over the next five years, which includes: enhancing the delivery of developmentally appropriate curriculum, strengthening classroom and center communities by utilizing research based practices and resources, enhancing family engagement and educational opportunities, and enhancing community partnerships to assist families in accessing community resources. The Board unanimously approved the plan.
In its final order of business, the Board approved Scenario 1(A) as the redistricting plan for the new Coastal Elementary School, which will open to students in the southern part of the county in August 2021.
At the meeting, OCS Chief Operations Officer Steve Myers presented the Board with scenarios 1(A) and 2. Scenario 1(A) splits the existing Dixon Elementary district in half and does not include pulling any students from Southwest Elementary to Coastal Elementary. Scenario 2 would have split the Dixon Elementary district in half the same way as Scenario 1(A), but it would have included pulling 18 students from Southwest Elementary to attend the new school.
When the new redistricting plan goes into effect for the 2021-2022 school year, fifth grade will be moved back into the elementary schools from Dixon Middle School, the population of Dixon Elementary will reduce to 635 students, and Coastal Elementary School will open with a student population of approximately 658.
The redistricting plan was approved with a 6-1 vote. Board member Jeff Hudson was the dissenting vote, citing concerns about the new district's line near the Southwest community and travel times for families in that area.