The Moore County Board of Education discussed new and revised policies at its April 10 work session.
Chair Robert Levy recommended revisions to policies under the Parents Bill of Rights, which is under the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The revision states that parents, not the state, have the power to decide on preferred pronouns and nicknames and whether a student receives social transitioning or gender counseling for incongruent biological sex identity conditions. Parents must be notified in writing of any changes, formal or informal, to names or pronouns used by the staff or the student.
Levy said he did not want to wait for the legislature, and the schools needed to partner with parents and be proactive. He said if the legislature passed a different policy, the board could later make revisions.
While the parental rights revision went without discussion, Levy’s reading and writing initiative for students to read and report on four physical books each year had a 40-minute discussion.
Levy’s original policy revision read that students must read four books to progress to the next grade, with allowances for special needs students.
“Book reports are old age,” member Stacy Caldwell said about dictating the four-book requirement.
“I would add rhetoric,” member Kenneth Benway said about it being a valid entry point to advancing to the next grade.
Superintendent Tim Locklair said he did not recommend the reading requirement.
According to Vice Chair David Hensley, “48% of our 8th graders do not read at grade level and that among our African-American students, only 28% of 8th graders read at grade level.”
“This is an attempt by the chair to ensure reading proficiency,” Hensley said.
Levy said he wanted to clarify that the book reports should be handwritten.
Locklair said he did not recommend handwritten book reports because it would be challenging to some students, and a lot of work is submitted online. Teachers are required to teach handwriting, but Locklair said not a lot of work is submitted with handwritten work.
“It’s all the more important that our students can write paragraphs and papers,” Hensley said about our national standing in education, which had fallen when America was the leader in the world for education and is now in the twenties.
Member Pauline Bruno said knowing how to write a five-paragraph paper with an introduction and supporting paragraphs was important, and not growing the skills is a community concern.
Hensley said people in the trades, such as plumbers, use handwriting, and so do the U.S. Marines, and that handwriting, cursive or print, needed to be mandatory or a sector of the community would not be served.
“Locklair made it clear that he opposed it. This policy is aimed at the strategic plan,” Levy said about his goal to lower the gap between lower-performing and higher-performing students.
The board voted to amend the policy to include that reports are handwritten, but the vote to accept the original proposal ended in a tie. The board will further discuss the reading policy with the teacher advisory council and discuss it at the May 1 work session.
In other business, the district’s school nurse manager recommended a new policy to keep naloxone, as required by the state, on campuses to help prevent fentanyl overdose deaths while waiting for emergency health care workers.
The board also discussed adding Wi-Fi to yellow buses and using the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Emergency Connectivity Funds (ECF) to provide the internet to students. Activity buses have Wi-Fi.
According to Kendt Eklund, director for technology, when students have access to Wi-Fi on long bus rides, it helps them complete homework, and discipline problems drop.
USAT, LCC will install the connectivity appliances to the 97 buses, and the school system will work with the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association Technology Procurement Program to cover the total cost of $383,060.06.
The buses will use the same Cradlepoint Wi-Fi system as emergency workers.
The board will vote on adding Wi-Fi to buses at the regular business meeting on April 17.
The discussion on the 2024-2025 school calendar year revealed that the community strongly supported the early-start calendar.
After feedback on the traditional year and the early-start year, the board will change the early release day to Friday, Oct. 4, 2023.
View the draft of the early-release calendar here.
The board will further discuss the early-release calendar at the May 1 work session.
The third-quarter student discipline update showed an overall increase in discipline problems from the 2021-2022 school year to the 2022-2023 school year.
There were 230 more out-of-school suspensions, 328 more in-school suspensions, four more bus suspensions, and 885 more office discipline referrals.
The Second Chance program had a decrease from 43 to 29. Teen court had an increase of two, and there were 10 more referrals to the Juvenile Justice System.
Member Shannon Davis presented a school uniform proposal, citing a drop in discipline problems, including bullying, and a rise in school performance because it creates true equality, instills confidence, makes it easier to identify students on field trips, and parents appreciate the convenience.
Davis said grants and vouchers are available for uniforms.
The board will review the presentation again at the May 1 meeting.
Feature photo of the Moore County School Board courtesy of the school district.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected]