The Alexander County Board of Education held its regularly scheduled meeting for February on the 13th. The meeting opened up with the pledge of allegiance led by second grader Sadie Lee and fourth grader Grace Lee, daughters of Kou Lee and Mailee Vang and fifth grader Isaiah Thick, son of Leah Thick, from Bethlehem Elementary.
Listed below are the reports and actions from the meeting
Honors and Recognitions
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner recognized several members of the Alexander Central High School’s Beta Club for their performance at competitions at the state convention in January. Local members participated in 58 of the state contests.
The entire Beta Club at Alexander Central High School earned recognition for growth of the club by more than 10 percent since the 2021-2022 school year.
Senior Meredith Miller received one of two scholarships the state Beta Club offers; the prize is worth $1,000.
Numerous students were awarded recognition for onsite competitions during the January conventions in Greensboro. For example, in art, students brought their own materials and had two hours to construct something on wood, canvas, or paper that exhibited creativity, composition and technique.
Here are the list of winners:
Hadleigh Houser, 9th Grade Agriscience – 4th Place
Trace Chatham, 12th Grade Agriscience – 4th Place
Meredith Miller, 12th Grade ELA – 4th Place
Oscar Romero, 10th Grade French – 4th Place
Ansley Scott, 12th Grade Science – 3rd Place
Jessica Salinas, 10th Grade Spanish – 5th Place
Judith Reynoso, Digital Art Div 1 – 3rd Place
Judith Reynoso, Hand Drawn Anime Div 1 – 1st Place
Judith Reynoso, Mixed Media Div 1 – 3rd Place
Benny Heath, Woodworking Div 2 – 5th Place
Judith Reynoso, On-site Painting Div 1 – 1st Place
Terriona Helton, Poetry Div 1 – 5th Place
Ella Mitchell, Spelling Bee – 5th Place
Grant Sizemore & Team, Technology – 5th Place
Musicology – Benny Heath, Charles Herman, Ansley Scott, Ethan Stocks – 3rd Place
We appreciate the students and their work to represent the system and the county well at the state level. They are eligible to compete at the national level in Louisville, Kentucky this summer.
We also appreciate the work of Donna Reid, who’s the Beta Club Advisor.
Dr. Hefner also recognized Alexander Central High School’s class of 1992 who held a fundraiser to support the Cougar Vision Scholarship. The 1992 graduates donated $1,400, which included some matching funds from the Merck Corporation. The scholarship is one of those sponsored by the Alexander County Public Education Foundation (ACPEF) each year; it gives $1,000 to a high school senior seeking a four-year degree. Hefner and ACPEF President Brigette Rhyne thanked the alumni for their contribution to the fund. The foundation was founded in 2009 and the organization is a 501c foundation that allows businesses, individuals, and other groups to donate to help with supporting staff and students. The Cougar Vision scholarship has given more then $61,000 through the years to help graduating seniors with college expenses.
Finally, the school system celebrated recognition from the state’s school public relations organization for a Blue Ribbon Award in the category of publications. Communications Director Dr. Dowell-Reavis managed the design, editing, and production of the district’s new strategic plan, which earned the NC-SPRA award.
Bethlehem Elementary Report
Charles Draper, principal at Bethlehem Elementary, presented an update about the school to board members. Bethlehem has 459 students in PreK through fifth grade and 37 certified staff members. The school also has 10 teacher assistants who drive buses and two assistants with the exceptional children’s program. The school aims to be 70% proficient in reading and 80% proficient in math by May of 2025. Bethlehem is using state training, known as LETRS, to help with reading scores. The school is also aiming to grow staff professionally with all members, including classified staff. Draper also discussed family and community engagement and the growth of the schools PTO. He also thanked community partners for their work with the school.
Review Internet Safety Policy
Technology coordinator Kim Bishop reviewed the internet safety policy with board members. The policy is not new. Because the Federal Communications Commission requires documentation the policy has been shared with the public, Bishop needed to present the policy. It establishes that the district prevents access or transmission of inappropriate material on the internet with district devices.
Transportation Audit Update
Finance director Sharon Mehaffey reported on the personnel costs within the transportation budget. She also shared that the transportation allotment in 2018-2019 was a bit more than one million dollars, which the district does not get all at one time. Since then, the budget has fallen by more than 27-thousand dollars. This is largely due to fewer buses being on the road in the Alexander County Schools. Dr. Jennifer Hefner also reported in the transportation update that the bus garage is getting new lifts this week. New roll-up doors are on order. Other improvements are underway following an audit report during the February meeting.
Summer Learning Opportunities
Associate Superintendent Dr. Betsy Curry reported on the summer learning opportunities the district will provide. These include high school credit recovery for students who are trying to graduate on time but have a credit deficit. There’s also Read to Achieve Summer Reading Camp for first through third graders who are working below grade level. The middle schools and Alexander Central offer a program for rising 6th and 9th graders for students who are working below grade level. There will also be camps focused on Science Technology Engineering and Math for third through eighth graders at Wittenburg Elementary. Finally, there will be a career academy for students in seventh through twelfth grade at Alexander Central High School where students can participate in hands-on learning ranging from fire management to carpentry. Curry reported to the board that the district is able to provide some of these opportunities using federal funds connected to Covid relief.
Mid-Year Achievement Report
Dr. Curry also reported on the students mid-year achievement as measured by DIBELS, I-Ready and the North Carolina Check-ins. In January, Testing and Accountability Director Andrea Robinette presented that students in our kindergarten classes come to us less ready to learn than students around the state according to state measures. The good news is that Alexander County Schools is closing the gap for kindergarten students with fewer being measured as well below benchmark and more now considered on grade level. Based on the DIBELS 8 (DailyDynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills-8th edition) the concern might be for third grade students who had more students now considered well below than at the beginning of the year. The bar is raised throughout the school year with expectations getting tougher, which would explain the increase in the number of third grade students who are now not meeting the standards. Dr. Curry presented that she expects our third graders to improve their scores before the end of the school year.
The next measure is IReady, an assessment for which the district pays. It shows all of Alexander County students growing more in reading than students across the nation with the exception of East Alexander Middle School students. One grade level outside of the middle-schoolers that did not grow as much one would hope in reading is first grade.
For math, the data is more mixed. On the whole, students are showing high growth with the exception of Stony Point, Wittenberg, and East Alexander Middle School. The grade levels doing well in math compared to national IReady data are kindergarten, first, seventh and eighth grade. Curry reports that there is a good correlation between the IReady data and state End-of-Grade proficiency. She also reports that ACS students grew more than what they would have in half of a year, and the students took the tests a bit before the half point in the school year. Curry also told the board that socioeconomic status does not affect growth but does affect proficiency. She said a poorer school might struggle with proficiency but should still be able to show growth.
Lastly, Curry presented state check-in data for reading and math. The check-ins show elementary school students averaging 43% to nearly 69% in third grade reading with the lowest performance at Hiddenite and Stony Point Elementary. For fourth grade, the scores ranged from 48% to 65% with Bethlehem at the top and Wittenburg and Stony Point at the bottom. In the fifth grade, the range was 50% at Stony Point to 58% at Taylorsville for reading scores; the other elementaries fell in between.
For middle school reading check-ins, the scores ranged from 43% at East Alexander for 8th grade reading to 66% at West Alexander for 6th grade.
The elementary schools do not do check-ins for math, but Curry was able to present information from the middle school math testing. The math check-ins showed the lowest performance of all the measures at 28% for East Alexander eighth graders. The highest percent was 45% for 7th grade math at West Alexander.
Teachers use these pieces of data from testing to plan instruction for the next cycle and to reteach concepts which may have shown gaps. The testing data is also used in small groups and after-school tutoring.
Communications Director Dr. Denita Dowell-Reavis presented the 2023-2024 school academic calendar for Alexander Early College to the board. The first day of school for the early college would be August 7th and the last day for students would be May 17th. The board approved the new calendar unanimously.
Alexander County Head Start
Director of Alexander County Head Start and PreK programs Cathy Knepp presented on Head Start’s Covid policy. The policy says that a student with symptoms must have a negative PCR test or an alternative diagnosis to return to class. The Head Start policy must follow North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.
Knepp also presented on Head Start’s budget, which has more than one-and-a-half million dollars in direct costs and nearly a million in personnel costs. The board approved the continuation grant for work of Head Start.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner announced the bids are open for the Bethlehem Roof Renovation Project. The state is giving the district $1.38 million dollars in capital projects funding for the roof. Bids are open through April 13th.
She also thanked the board for providing lunch on today’s workday.
Hefner addressed a comment made during the February meeting saying, “Litter boxes are not and will not be allowed in our schools. Children are not dressing as animals per Dress Code Policy #4316.”
Finally, she reminded board members that the ESSER (Covid) funding deadline is June 30, 2024. Chief Finance Office, Sharon Mahaffey will provide a report as to how our ESSER funds have been spent and the amount remaining to be spent at the April 18th meeting.
School Board policies revision
The board considered the second reading of the following policy revisions presented by Chief Financial Officer Mrs Sharon Mehaffey. These three passed unanimously.
Policy No. 7241 – Drug and Alcohol Testing of Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators
Policy No. 7810 – Evaluation of Licensed Employees
Policy No. 9400 – Sale, Disposal, and Lease of Board-Owned Real Property
The board considered the second reading of a new policy and approved it unanimously.
Policy No. 8341 – Limited Claim Settlement–new, unanimous
The board also considered the first reading on the following policies.
Policy No. 4400 – Attendance
Policy No. 5071/7351 – Electronically Stored Information Retention
Policy No. 8410 – Individual School Accounts
The policies will be brought back for second reading at the April meeting after gathering input from the public. Alexander County Board Policies are available for review by the public at www.alexander.k12.nc.us or by appointment at the Alexander County Board of Education Office on Liledoun Road, Taylorsville, North Carolina.