Board reviews budget, Black History Month

The Board of Education reviewed the proposed 2023-2024 budget at the work session on March 6. Superintendent Tim Locklair and Tina Edmonds, executive officer for budget and finance, presented the proposed $162,547,260 operating budget.

The total county asking cost for the budget is $2,298,500.

Fixed costs, which are people, are the largest expense at $3,903,500. There are 14,166 students and 1,637 employees.

The board discussed the use of unpaid salaries from vacancies to pay back the fund balance.

Locklair said there is approximately $1.9 million above the $2 million base balance kept in the fund balance, and the vacancies should be filled next year.

Chair Robert Levy said he was nervous about the fund balance because he knew about the county’s history and said someone could look at the $4 to $5 million in the fund balance and want to cut appropriations. He said he wants to manage the fund balance better for lowering class sizes in the future in fourth through seventh grades.

The $440,000 expansion costs cover additional teachers and resource materials for Pinckney Academy at $350,000 and additional principals at Crains Creek Middle School and New Century Middle School at $90,000.

The board discussed needing an individualized educational program (IEP) coordinator for F-rated schools. IEPs are for students who need special education. There is a formal complaint and other complaints that schools do not meet learning goals for special education students in a timely manner.

According to Locklair, 13% of the school population is exceptional children.

Member Pauline Bruno said it takes a tremendous amount of time for a teacher to create an IEP, and a coordinator would make a positive difference.

The 2023-2024 Proposed Budget’s Seven Goals:

  1. Increase the number of schools meeting or exceeding growth from 14 to 23.
  2. Increase Grade Level Proficiency from 56.6% to 66.6%.
  3. Increase Grade Level Proficiency from 23rd place to at least in the top 5% in the state.
  4. Increase the number of 10th grade students reading at or above grade level, from 81% to 91%.
  5. Close the achievement gap of Black from 29.9% to 19%, Hispanic from 10% to 0, economically disadvantaged from 21.1% to 11.1%, and students with disabilities from 38.4% to 28.4%.
  6. Increase the number of students who complete a Career and Technical Education Cluster from 441 to 510.
  7. Decrease the number of schools with School Performance Grades of an “F” from two to zero.

The proposed budget weighs the above goals against the reality of fixed cost increases to maintain operations without degrading services.

The budget proposal will be recommended during the board’s regular business meeting on April 17.

In other business, board Vice-Chair David Hensley led a discussion of the heritage and recognition months that Moore County Schools promotes and that academic-related months are a better alternative.

Moore County Schools currently observes Black History Month, Month of the Military Child, and Hispanic Heritage Month.

Members said all classroom moments were teaching moments, and designating specific groups excluded opportunities to teach about other groups. They said schools should focus on learning missions instead of specific months for specific groups.

The board said there is no Irish or Chinese or Native American month.

Bruno said grouping people was detrimental to everybody.

“The minute you recognize one person based upon their status, you’ve excluded everyone else,” Hensley said about recognizing people based on race, culture or gender, and excluding, for example, Polish American groups, who could sue the board for discrimination by not being recognized.

Hensley said the board needs to promote mission-related goals by having things like math month.

Levy agreed with Hensley and said the problem is that excluding any month of recognition could be seen as taking away something from a group.

“We should be as colorblind as possible … What saddens me, frankly, is that five years ago I wouldn’t have thought anything about celebrating African American History Month, but unfortunately, in this hyper-racialized world that we live in, where so-called liberals are nothing more than racists, when people insist we look through everything as panorama set through the lens of race, the good things get challenged, and I think Black History Month is a good thing, it doesn’t help us at all. That is why we as a board need to make our school a colorblind school and colorblind society,” Levy said.

Member Philip Holmes introduced the idea of daily reciting of the official salute to the flag of North Carolina. The official salute is: “I salute the flag of North Carolina and pledge to the Old North State love, loyalty, and faith.”

Holmes said the 18 words in the salute were a learning opportunity.

Bruno said she loved it because every child should be proud of their state.

Member Kenneth Benway said he had to think about it.

Levy said there was no way to force a student to say the salute.

The board will vote on it at a later date.

During reports and updates, Hensley made recommendations on the approved 10-year improvement plan. He suggested removing a designated area for constructing a new middle school, and a plan to save 70% in building costs using the same architects for gym projects in existing schools.

Hensley added a track to the four-tracks, which is to build and designate emergency shelter schools.

Learn more about school improvement plans here.

A discussion on disciplinary issues exposed the risk of bad behavior on buses causing deaths and that there needs to be predefined punishments without maximums for all disciplinary offenses.

Bruno said too much personal opinion was used in interpreting which punishments suit offenses.

The board is considering stiffer punishments within state laws.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected]

Photo by Sandhills Sentinel Photographer Melissa Schaub.

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