November 7th School Matters
November 7th, 2023
The Alexander County Board of Education held its regularly scheduled meeting for October on the 7th. Hiddenite Elementary School 5th-graders Breanna and Hannah McCall led the pledge.
Listed below are the reports and actions from the meeting.
Public Education Foundation Grants
Dr. Jennifer Hefner kicked off the meeting with recognition of the teachers who received a Public Education Foundation grant. She passed the recognitions over to Brigette Rhyne who leads the foundation. The Alexander County PEF supports teachers through the grants geared towards science, technology, engineering and math topics. Here’s the list of recipients, who could earn up to $500 each for their projects:
Emily Fox/Brian Lewis-$500
fuel for industry & reality of money
hands on supplies
ACT Prep incentives
Mary Brown -$500
Biology and chemistry materials
frog dissection materials
Liz Cronan/Jason Erkman/Brian Weisand-$490
data sheets and card sets
blue yeti microphones
EC items for self contained classroom
Hole in one
Liz Cronan/Ruth Ann Jacobs-$500
Leonardo da Vinci Building
cooking and baking supplies
3-5 club activities
Digital Learning and Innovation Specialist
The Public Education Foundation, or PEF, sponsors the grants each year for teachers. The applicants must support the use of the grant-purchased materials in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) projects and activities.
All totaled, the Alexander County Schools Public Education Foundation is giving away more than $10,000 for the grants this year to the most ever, 21 recipients. A golf tournament that the PEF sponsors in October helps support the grant awards.
Parents’ Bill of Rights
The district offered a public hearing November 7th to gather parent and community input on revisions to school board policies based on the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The legislature passed the law this past session; a law that includes several things the school system already does. The North Carolina legislation follows similar laws across the country including Florida, Virginia and Arizona. The Parents’ Bill of Rights says parents have a right to know their child’s grades and attendance and to be involved in their child’s schooling. Specifically, the law outlines a timetable for challenging instructional materials. Alexander County Schools already has committees at each school called MTAC-Media Technology Advisory Committee. Those committees are called on when a parent asks for reconsideration of an instructional material.
The state lawmakers made revisions to the Parents’ Bill of Rights during the budget process, so some pieces of the law did not go into effect until October 2nd. Other parts are set to take effect in January of next year. The Board of Education policies are being revised to include phrasing from the law but the revisions do not make substantive changes to board policy content. Those policies are:
Policy No. 1310/4002 - Parental Involvement
Policy No. 3210 - Parental Inspection of and Objection to Instructional Materials
Policy No. 3540 - Comprehensive Health Education Program
Policy No. 4335 - Criminal Behavior
Policy No. 4720 - Surveys of Students
Policy No. 6120 - Student Health Services
Policy No. 7300 - Staff Responsibilities
The policies will be brought back to the board at the December 12th meeting. No one signed up for the Public Comment regarding the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
Abigail Bumgarner, a student at Alexander Early College spoke to the board about the benefits of the Early College. She spoke about the rigorous curriculum, strong instructors, and preparation that the school gives to students. The majority of the graduates at AEC leave the school with an associate degree in science or arts or sometimes both. She spoke of the benefits of the school for families when it comes to saving college tuition. Bumgarner spoke against the district considering combining AEC with the traditional high school, ACHS.
Another student, Lucas Ritchie, spoke about the benefits of an early college including the BETA club, Interact Club, JROTC and more.
Hiddenite Elementary Report
Hiddenite Elementary principal Amy Daigle presented to the board about the school’s work towards its goals for the 2023-24 school year. Hiddenite has a farm theme this year and incorporates growing the students as leaders. Daigle also connected the school’s goals to the District Strategic Plan. Specifically, the school hopes to increase student performance by 5% this year and build parent engagement. She also thanked the school’s partners, which includes various area churches, Pepsi Company, and the Hiddenite Fire Department.
Community Eligibility Provision Report
Child Nutrition Director Kathy Caudle reported on the increase in participation for breakfast, lunch, and supplemental sales now that all students can eat free. For example, in the month of October 11-hundred more students ate school lunch compared to last year. The participation rate is important because the district gets reimbursed from the federal government for the meals based on how many students eat breakfast and lunch. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) status is good for the district for four years.
Caudle also reported that she needs the strong ice cream sales to continue because the state has mandated that child nutrition employees receive a four-percent raise. The mandate is not funded by the state. She plans to use proceeds from the ice cream sales to support the raise.
Caudle explained to the board that the CEP status is saving parents about six-dollars a day per student for breakfast and lunch. The district will be reimbursed $317,171 for the month of October, which is nearly $102,000 more than last October.
Board Committee Reports
Board member Brigette Rhyne announced that the Public Education Foundation will hold the Sports Hall of Fame on November 20th. Tickets are on sale online.
Board member Matt Reese said that a substitute teacher who once worked in a county down east recently spoke highly to him about students in Alexander County. He also said he was proud of the work at Hiddenite Elementary School where his children go to school. He said he believes we live in a great community and that the schools are offering plenty of opportunities and training for ACS students.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner reported budget meetings are finishing up with all staff this week. She reminded the board the district has held focus groups in three specific areas (parents, staff and the community) to seek input as to how to best reduce the operating budget by $1.5 million dollars for the 2024-25 school year. The top themes will be explored by the Budget Committee to make recommendations to the full Board of Education. Hefner plans to report the highlights of the feedback at the December 12th meeting.
Hefner also reported on some recent grant winners. Jessica Esposito has been awarded a Fall Appalachian State University Mini Grant totaling $993.00. The grant will be used to fund BeeBots Go Coding and will benefit students at all seven elementary schools. She also detailed a luncheon in Statesville November 3rd that recognized four Energy United grant recipients: Paige Jackson, Shelly Cain, Kristine Ford and Taylor Gallyon. Gallyon was a second-time recipient of the Bright Ideas grant from Energy United and the other three teachers were first-time award winners.
Hefner bragged that the district’s transportation department’s efficiency rating is 99.49%. The efficiency rate was 85% during Covid. This rating is compared against all 100 counties and is based on the number of students riding buses, the number of buses operating within the fleet and amount of money spent within the department.
Hefner announced the Board’s Budget Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, November 28th at 5:00 to discuss the draft budget. Since the district was delayed in getting the state budget, the entire process has been delayed. The district expects to approve this year's 2023-24 budget at the December 12th meeting.
Hefner encouraged students to participate in the district’s Holiday Card Contest. The winning cards will represent the district and the winning students will be recognized and receive a prize at the December Board meeting. The deadline for entries is November 17th at 3pm.
She also announced a partnership with Hendren Insurance for the Alexander All-Star recognitions on social media. The All-Stars is a way for parents, students, and community members to
recognize outstanding staff members. Hendren Insurance sponsors the partnership and special recognition.
Finally, the old Wittenburg property on Highway 16 has been listed for sale at $599,000.
School Board Policies
The board considered the following policy revision presented by Chief Financial Officer Ms. Sharon Mehaffey and unanimously approved them on second reading.
Policy No. 1610/7800 - Professional and Staff Development
Policy No. 3101 - Dual Enrollment in Higher Education Courses
Policy No. 4023 / 7233 - Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students and Employees
Policy No. 4310 - Integrity and Civility
Policy No. 5008 - Automated Phone and Text Messaging
Policy No. 5040 - News Media Relations
Policy No. 6330 - Insurance for Student Transportation Services
Policy No. 7810 - Evaluation of Licensed Employees
Policy No. 7815 - Evaluation on Non-Licensed Employees
The board also considered first reading changes to the following policies.
Policy No. 6315 - Drivers
Policy No. 6402 - Participation by Historically Underutilized Businesses
Policy No. 6430 - Purchasing Requirements for Equipment, Materials, and Supplies
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. All board members were present for the November 7th meeting.