School board sets precedence in education over tourism

Moore County Schools Interim Executive Officer for Academic and Student Support Services Dr. Seth Powers presented an update of COVID-19 statistics for the county at the Moore County Board of Education regular meeting on Feb. 14.

New cases dropped from 806 down to 445.

COVID-19 transmission rate slide is provided by the Moore County Board of Education on February 14, 2022, at its regular board meeting.

The number of cases was not low enough to recommend the removal of the mask mandate.

With cases numbers still in the red, masks are now optional for all students and staff in indoor areas except for public transportation. The mask optional policy is effective immediately.

“Because of this political charade, we have lost two years’ worth of education,” board member David Hensley said.

Hensley said that COVID mandates hit the most vulnerable, those who could not afford tutors. He said it was the single parent, dual-working parents, and military with one spouse deployed, whose children suffered a 25% learning gap.

“It’s our fault,” Hensley said as he pointed at the board members, “because we fell for this charade.”

Hensley said the charade is seen as the former director of The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, who was the founding member in 2008 for Doctors for Obama, pushed her political ideas.

Powers said recommendations on COVID management were based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data and Moore County’s statistics.

Beginning Feb. 21, quarantine for people without COVID symptoms and contact tracing will not be required. Isolation for people with COVID symptoms will still be required.

In other business, the school board passed the 2022-2024 Strategic Revision Plan’s timeline and survey in a 4 to 3 vote.

Philip Holmes, Robert Levy, and David Hensley voted against the plan.

The plan was intended to improve grade-level performance, according to Hensley in the Feb. 7 planning meeting.

“It is a bunch of bureaucratic gobbledygook,” the board’s Legislative Committee Liaison Levy said about the survey not identifying the problem or being specific with data and asking the public for solutions.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Tim Locklair said he did not want to delay the survey because it was already in place, and they need the public’s feedback.

Hensley said the survey needs to be revised and that the public is not capable of forming a new strategic plan with the platitudes offered on the existing survey.

Platitudes are defined as personal statements and clichés.

The board discussed the rationality of advisory councils based on ethnicity and associations.

The board also passed a 2.5% salary increase for classified staff, meeting the State General Assembly’s 2022 budget, which brings the minimum to $13 per hour.

The current inflation rate is 7%, and next year, the board expects to review a 5% increase.

The 2.5% salary increase has a cost impact of $700,000.

The board voted 6 to 1 to amend the agreement for legal services with Tharrington Smith, LLP to cover their increased fees.

In a letter to the board dated Jan. 25, 2022, Tharrington Smith, LLP said that the increase was due to an increased paralegal rate from $15 per hour to $20.

The board agreed to an amendment that students entering the U.S. Armed Forces be recognized at graduation ceremonies by name and with their branch of service.

Feature photo: Elise Middle School in Robbins by Sandhills Sentinel Photographer Melissa Schaub.

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

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