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News from the Board -- March 14, 2022Posted by Jessica wells on 3/15/2022 1:45:00 PM
On Monday, March 14, the Onslow County Board of Education and Onslow County Board of Commissioners held a joint special meeting at the BOE Family Education and Professional Development Center. The two boards met to discuss an overview of planned school reassignments, new capital requests from OCS, and an update on the physical condition of current school facilities.
The chairmen of each board opened the meeting by saying that the conversation surrounding school funding is of great importance. It is important that the county’s schools are being taken care of and that the county government and school district are good stewards of taxpayer money.
OCS Chief of Operations Steve Myers presented to the boards information on the district’s plans and needs for maintenance and growth. He explained that the district uses several methods to identify current needs and project growth, including the Long Range Facility Needs Assessment (LRFNA), out of capacity calculations, local funding agreements, and capital outlay requests.
The LRFNA identifies long-range facility and construction needs in the district over the next 10 years. Out of capacity calculations help determine which areas will need overpopulation relief and which schools are being underused, based on current capacity. Each year, the district goes through the process of collecting maintenance requests from schools and identifying those most needed in the next year to determine which projects will be next on the list to be completed with capital outlay funds. The capital outlay plan includes maintenance such as vehicles, paving, painting, facility upgrades, etc.
In the first topic of discussion, Mr. Myers shared that some of the district’s schools are experiencing overcrowding, while others have additional capacity that could be used. To address this issue, he shared that the district is planning to undergo a school reassignment process which could affect schools such as Dixon High, Southwest High, Parkwood Elementary, Northwoods Elementary, Carolina Forest Elementary and Meadow View Elementary as early as the 2023-2024 school year.
While redistricting is always discussed before school construction, the district has identified two construction projects that will need to be completed to best serve the county’s needs. These projects include an expansion of Northwoods Park Middle School and the construction of a new elementary school in the northeast part of the county. Before discussing funding from the county for these projects, OCS, with the blessing of the Board of Commissioners, has applied for an NBPSCF grant for full or partial funding.
Additional projects Mr. Myers said could benefit the district include the construction of a new facility to house OVS and central services, a new transportation office, and a new school nutrition facility. The facilities that currently house district-level services were built in the 1950s and 1960s and do not sufficiently meet the needs of parking, workspace, and ADA requirements.
Concerning current maintenance needs for existing facilities, Mr. Myers said that, thanks to the funding agreement with the county, OCS received $3.7 million in FY 2022 to address needed scheduled and deferred maintenance. By 2025, the funding for capital outlay needs will be increased to $5.5 million annually. This funding will go toward making upgrades required by law, doing repairs that will contribute to the safety and security of school facilities, and other needed maintenance. The current assessment for deferred and scheduled maintenance identifies a need of $191,760,930 over the next 10 years. Each year, maintenance projects are prioritized to meet the allotted funding.
No decisions were made at this meeting of the boards, but there was valuable and productive discussion on how to best use available resources to serve Onslow County.
News from the Board -- March 1, 2022Posted by Jessica wells on 3/2/2022 12:50:00 PM
The Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on March 1 at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. Agenda items included a 2021-2022 arts education update, a presentation on OCS employee initiatives, and COVID-19 protocols.
The meeting began with the Board, excluding member Bill Lanier, who was absent, voting to move the COVID-19 protocols from the consent agenda to general business.
Following a Good News Spotlight segment, which recognized many arts students and educators, as well as students who received NCAGT recognitions, and a public comment period with four speakers, Dr. Lisa Peele took to the podium to talk about arts education in the district.
Dr. Peele, director of cultural arts and global leadership, shared with the Board the many opportunities students have to study the arts at OCS, both in and out of the classroom. She said she and her staff participate in professional development on a regular basis to continue offering top-notch arts education in Onslow County, including opportunities such as chorus, visual art, band, orchestra, theatre, guitar, piano, and more. Dr. Peele shared that OCS is proud to be one of the only districts in the state that has maintained a great number of arts opportunities for students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While challenging, Dr. Peele said that it was important to maintain those opportunities, as participation in the arts is an indicator for success in other areas of academia.
Following Dr. Peele’s presentation, the Board heard from Dr. CJ Korenek, chief of human resources and student services. Dr. Korenek shared with the Board the many initiatives HR is implementing to address staffing shortages and generate more interest in pursuing much needed roles. The district has implemented or will soon implement several avenues for teachers to grow their craft through graduate studies. The district recently completed its first cohort for the elementary math graduate certificate program with 21 graduates. Another 13 will start the new cohort soon. New initiatives include avenues for staff to earn master’s degrees in school counseling or instructional technology with partial funding from OCS, a program called OCS Bridge to Board-Certified, Partnership Teach Program, which helps OCS TAs become licensed teachers, and the OCS Promise Scholar Program, which will help a current OCS student build a teaching career upon graduation. For those interested in becoming a teacher, OCS holds quarterly information sessions.
Jeff Hollamon, chief finance officer, followed Dr. Korenek and briefed the Board on incentives that have been given to OCS employees in order to reward and retain them. Local incentives include a classified employee salary step schedule, higher bus driver pay (starting at $15 an hour), higher substitute teacher pay, and a 10 percent certified salary supplement. Incentives from the state include varying pay raises and bonuses across employee types. A local retention bonus has also been given, with $500 given in November 2021 and $1,000 to come in June 2022.
In its final order of business, the Board voted to amend the district’s COVID-19 protocols to align with recent guidance from the CDC and NCDHSS. Face coverings will remain optional for all K-12 students, staff and visitors in OCS facilities. Face coverings are now optional on all OCS transportation for all K-12 students, staff, and visitors. Due to federal guidelines, OCS will require face coverings in preschool programs including preschool transportation until further notice.
In his closing remarks, Superintendent Dr. Barry Collins shared that the district now owns a plot of land next to Jacksonville High School and he is excited for this opportunity for growth at the district’s largest high school. He also expressed his optimism for the future of OCS and the newness that spring will bring.