By Jamie Gardner
The Appling County Board of Education (BOE) held a called meeting on March 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the board office located on Highway 15 South. The board’s agenda for the meeting was titled Board Retreat. After more than five hours, the BOE members finally adjourned.
The first item of discussion was Performance Goals for the Superintendent. At an earlier meeting, BOE Chairman Dr. Lynn Overstreet had requested each board member take a goal, review it, and then present recommendations for each goal back to the entire board.
The goals established for the superintendent position are as follows:
1. The superintendent will provide leadership designed to improve student performance and promote academic improvement of the schools. During discussion, Dr. Overstreet stated he would like to see more individualized reporting of test scores instead of percentages to allow the board to better track performance.
2. The superintendent will continue to build work force development between the school system and the community during the FY2023-2024 school year. It was noted that the superintendent will work with the CTAE program, Southern Pines College and Career Academy and the Propel Program to improve workforce development. BOE members also requested to be updated on progress being made.
3. The superintendent will implement/continue effective communication related to the safety program. Some concern was expressed that the school system needs to communicate better information to the public when incidents occur.
4. The superintendent will make sure a system wide climate and improvement plan is implemented. There was discussion among BOE members on how to best handle surveys and how to make sure surveys are strictly anonymous.
5. The BOE and superintendent sets sound fiscal policy so that the school system is an effective steward of all resources to support student achievement and organizational effectiveness.
The board then moved to discussion on Policy BH. This policy deals with the BOE’s Code of Conduct. The first page of the policy was somewhat mundane, with very little discussion. As the BOE was reviewing page two of the policy, Dr. Overstreet expressed concern when reviewing Domain III: Board and Community Relations. As he read item one, “seek regular and systemic communications among board and students, staff and the community,” Overstreet stopped and stated that he did not know when this became unacceptable for the BOE members and said it needed to change.
Under Domain V: Policy Development, Dr. Overstreet again expressed concern about item two, which states, “make decisions on policy matters only after full discussion at publicly held board meetings.” He said that he believes that rarely happens. Dr. Copeland interjected and asked the chairman if he was indicating the BOE has not been discussing policy matters. Dr. Overstreet stated that he could not remember three meetings, since he began on the BOE, that they have had extensive discussions on policy matters. Dr. Copeland responded by saying she was confused and asked if she was supposed to make the BOE discuss items.
The final area of concern about the policy was under Domain VI: Personnel. Under item three that states, “comply with all applicable laws, rules, regulations and all board employment of family members,” Dr. Overstreet said the BOE may need to review this item more.
The BOE next reviewed the Appling School Board Operating Protocol. Item two under the protocol states, “communication between staff and the board are encouraged. Board requests of staff are to be directed to the superintendent.” Dr. Overstreet stated that this has not always been the case, referring to communication between the BOE and the staff being encouraged. He
added that he is going to talk to people.
Regarding item three, Chain of Command, BOE member Mark Green stated that the superintendent should never send complaints back down the chain further than the highest point of origin. He cited an incident in December, which was brought to administration, then was sent back down to the Athletic Director position to deal with, instead of being dealt with by the administration.
Under item Meeting Protocol, discussion ensued about the BOE being instructed not to respond to questions during the meeting. Dr. Overstreet stated that he believed if it was an item that could be answered, it should be answered. He pointed to a recent question presented during a meeting when a citizen asked who the system’s Safety Coordinator was. “I believe if we know the answer, we should answer,” said Overstreet.
Green and Dr. Overstreet both expressed concern with a portion of the protocal that states the BOE must notify the superintendent prior to visiting a school. BOE member Dr. Areatha Virgil stated that if a BOE member is visiting a school, it could cause a distraction. Dr. Overstreet fired back and stated that he had never been a distraction at a school and said that Dr. Virgil’s comment was ridiculous. He added that he is going to visit schools. Green added that when he was campaigning, citizens and school staff asked if he would be visiting schools like Dr. Overstreet. Dr. Copeland stated that she did not want anyone to think she is trying to stop anyone from visiting and added that visits from the BOE is welcome. The BOE agreed to change the protocol to reflect that they would notify the school principal prior to visiting.
The BOE and Dr. Copeland discussed the Appling County Middle School Complex and plans should be forthcoming soon for review by the board.
Board members asked if the coaching supplements could be added to the agenda for review at an upcoming meeting.
Dr. Copeland and the board discussed possibly changing the date when letters of intent from staff. The BOE asked to change the hard date for letters of intent to December 31 for hiring purposes, and possibly change the contract deadline to the end of January.
Dr. Overstreet then asked Dr. Copeland if the school system is currently undergoing any audits. The superintendent stated the system is currently undergoing two audits. She also reported that someone had filed a Federal complaint about the possible misuse of Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER). Dr. Copeland explained that the complaint alleged that the system had misused funds to pay for several employees tuition that allowed the employees to become qualified in certain aspects of teaching. She added that one of the employees was her daughter. Dr. Copeland said the system immediately responded to the complaint with documentation to prove there was no misuse of funds and the next day received a letter back stating there was no wrongdoing. She stated that anyone is welcome to come and inspect the system’s finances and added that she has always been transparent with school finances. The superintendent did add that she felt the complaint was very targeted.
The BOE then voted to enter into an executive session for personnel purposes. Following the closed session the BOE voted to accept the resignation of Julie Osborne as Safety Coordinator for the school system.
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