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News from the Board -- November 12, 2019


On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting at Blue Creek Elementary School. The meeting’s agenda items included an annual independent audit report, a special focus update on the OCS Human Resources and Student Services department, a policy revision regarding attendance, the 2020-2021 calendar proposal, the Town of Holly Ridge annex for the new southern elementary school, and NCSTAR school improvement plans.  

After a Good News Spotlight that recognized the staff and students for their accomplishments in the arts, the OCS Finance department, the OCS principal and assistant principal of the year, and the BOE members themselves, OCS Chief Financial Officer Jeff Hollamon introduced Dale Smith from Anderson Smith & Wike for the presentation of the annual independent audit report.  

Mr. Smith shared with the Board that his firm’s audit is comprised of two parts: the school system’s finances and the district’s compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. He told Board members that the four opinion letters in the audit speak very highly of the finance department staff, as well as the other department heads that have to be audited in this process. Overall, Mr. Smith said his firm was very happy with what they saw from a financial audit standpoint.  

Next, OCS Chief of Human Resources and Student Services Dr. CJ Korenek presented to the Board an update on what her department has been working on in recent months and shared some of her goals for the department’s initiatives. Dr. Korenek shared that she and her team have been working on two different initiatives to promote the teaching profession to students and provide professional development opportunities in mathematics to current elementary school teachers.  

The first program, Future Teacher of Onslow, has established clubs for students interested in becoming teachers at each of the district’s high schools. The club gives students access to information about scholarships and colleges, while allowing them to get an in depth look at what being a teacher is really like. Dr. Korenek said that the goal of this program is to foster a love of teaching in Onslow County high school students and encourage them to come back to Onslow County to teach after college.  

The second program is a collaborative effort between Onslow County Schools and the East Carolina University College of Education. For the first time, this year OCS has a cohort of elementary school teachers that will complete the ECU Graduate Certificate in Elementary Mathematics. The program is designed to sharpen instructional expertise, develop teaching skill, deepen mathematics knowledge, and promote leadership in mathematics education. Dr. Korenek said that 26 current 3rd - 5th grade teachers have started the program, and that many other teachers have shown an interest. The Human Resources Department hopes to grow this program with annual cohorts to continue supporting mathematics education in the district.  

Following Dr. Korenek’s presentation, Dr. Brendan Gartner, executive director of student services and human resources, presented a proposed revision to policy 4400 regarding attendance to align with recent changes to the NCSBA policy. The changes included the addition of “legal guardian” to match wording added to statute, the requirement of allowing a minimum of two excused days each school year for visitation with a parent or legal guardian if the parent is an active member of uniformed services and has been called to duty for, is on leave from, or has immediately returned from deployment to a combat zone or combat support posting. The changes would also allow principals discretion to allow additional excused absences. The Board unanimously approved the revisions.  

Next, OCS Chief Communications Officer Brent Anderson presented to the Board the 2020-2021 calendar proposal. Mr. Anderson shared with the Board and audience that the district is limited in calendar flexibility by state law, saying that the start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, the end date can be no later than the Friday closest to June 11, the calendar must cover at least nine calendar months, and there must be a minimum of 185 days or 1,025 instructional hours.  

Mr. Anderson said that, in a recent district-wide vote, OCS employees were presented with two potential calendar options, Version A and Version B. Employees ultimately selected Version B, which featured a 90-day first semester, an 89-day second semester, 179 instructional days, 15 workdays, 10 leave days, 11 holidays, 2 no days, and 1,059 instructional hours. The Board unanimously approved Version B of the calendar for the 2020-2021 school year.  

Moving forward, Mr. Anderson said that the district may consider some of the options other school districts have tried, such as the “compacted” traditional calendar, or the “year-round district” calendar, but that neither of those options will be used in the 2020-2021 school year.  

In their next order of business, the Board briefly discussed the new elementary school being built in the southern part of the county and approved a motion to direct staff to work with the Town of Holly Ridge to discuss a potential annexation of the new school.  

In the meeting’s final order of business, Dr. Mark Bulris, executive director of elementary education, presented to the Board NCSTAR School Improvement Plans. Dr. Bulris opened by saying that 2019-2020 is year 2 of the two-year Strategic Plan approved in December of 2018. He said that upcoming updates to the plan will include 2018-2019 progress indicator data, actions and objectives completed during 2018-2019 and through October of this year, new actions added to meet established goals, and target revisions based on performance data or changes in data sources.  

Dr. Bulris said that federal law has indicated two new designations for schools that will need to be added to the district’s strategic plan. Those designations are TSI (Targeted Support and Improvement) AT and CU. AT stands for “additional targeted” and CU stands for “consistently underperforming.” Onslow County has 27 schools identified as TSI – AT and/or CU, meaning the strategic plan will need to be updated to address TSI subgroups, plans must be submitted to the state through NCSTAR, and required parent notification was sent home on November 1.  

Four schools in Onslow County were identified as “low performing,” which Dr. Bulris said means an updated plan will need to be implemented to address those issues. A “preliminary” plan has been submitted to the Board for their review, which will be presented for Board approval at the December 3 BOE meeting.