Staff photo by Emmy Errante
Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and operations, addresses the New Hanover County Board of Education at its meeting on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the NHC Board of Education Center.
During a meeting postponed to Saturday, Feb. 15, due to the prior week’s ice storm, the New Hanover County Board of Education voted to cancel a make-up day initially scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22.
Instead, the board unanimously passed a recommendation by Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley to add 30 minutes to each school day for the month of March, satisfying the state’s requirement that students attend at least 1,025 hours of instruction each year.
“Adding 30 minutes to the day is a strong instructional block that the schools can use to try to work with the students,” Markley said “It is not a perfect solution, but at this point I don’t think there is a perfect solution.”
He added it will save costs otherwise incurred by opening the school an extra day, including transportation.
Fifteen minutes will be added to the beginning and end of each March school day. June 13 will remain a make-up day for students.
The board also approved the staff’s recommendations for accommodating growth in the district, which Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and operations, expects to increase by more than 2,700 students, slightly more than 10 percent, between school years ending in 2011 and 2021.
The College Road facility will reopen as an early childhood education center to serve pre-kindergarten students from Mary C. Williams Elementary and kindergarten students from Bellamy Elementary.
“We’re fortunate in the respect that we have the early childhood center and can make these adjustments right now,” Hance said during his presentation. “But this will, unfortunately, be an annual event.”
Other changes include trailer classrooms for Bradley Creek and Murrayville elementary schools, with districts shifting students from Pine Valley to Holly Tree and Parsley Elementary, and from Bellamy to Parsley.
Markley said he had reviewed the plan with school principals and made tweaks based on their recommendations.
While a retreat scheduled to follow the meeting was postponed for a month, replacing a work session scheduled for March 18, the board discussed legislative priorities in preparation for their annual legislative breakfast, held Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Board members were in general agreement that teachers deserved a pay raise following cuts to public teacher salaries during the most recent legislative session, but differed on their views of whether to ask the local legislative delegation to walk back a new law which eliminated automatic pay raises for teachers who receive master’s degrees.
Board member Dr. Derrick Hickey said he opposed the automatic 10 percent bump in pay, but wished every teacher could get such a raise.
“I think our big concern is teachers feel like they’re underpaid,” Hickey said. “... I would rather us just say that we will support increases in teacher pay.”
Board member Ed Higgins said he believed a master’s degree in education should be required for receiving a teaching certificate, with a more specialized undergraduate degree as a prerequisite.
“We need to say to the state legislature that they need to address the fact that there are all these universities offering teaching degrees,” Higgins said. “What they ought to be offering is degrees in geography, degrees in history, degrees in English, and then a master’s degree in education.”
Board members, along with staff and teachers in attendance, also gave a standing ovation to Dale Pelsey-Becton when Markley announced she would retire from her post as the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and academic accountability.
To fill the position, Markley recommended promoting Dr. LaChawn Smith. Smith had previously served as the district’s director of instructional services. The board unanimously consented, making Smith’s new job effective through June 30, 2017.