By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor
WELCH – The McDowell County Board of Education met Monday, October 21st, 2019 to discuss the following:
House Bill Bonus for Service Personnel
A provision included in HB 206, the omnibus education bill passed earlier in the year, allowed for teachers missing no more than four days in the school year to receive a $500 dollar bonus.
“We would like to request that the Board consider doing a policy to give service personnel a 500 dollar bonus,” said Mullins.
Some counties already have adopted polices to include service personnel, according to Mullins.
“I calculated it out using last year’s numbers. The cost of hiring a substitute to cover 4 days is approximately $7000 dollars. If we were paying the bonus, it would be around $9700 dollars, so the Board would be out $2700 dollars.’
“I used the same figures to calculate it for the current school year because we got raises. The substitute rate also got higher. If we had subs for the same number of people who missed 4 days or less, it would only be a difference of $134,” said Mullins. “This is going to keep going down because as employees get more raises, more experience, the substitute rate will go up.”
A lot of service personnel complaints concerning HB 206 are because it only covers teachers, according to Mullins.
“There’s not a lot of them now that don’t miss. They’ve got the days, why not use them right? But if they had an incentive not to use more than 4, it might help that.”
Mullins currently awaits information for the current school year regarding the matter. Superintendent Carolyn Falin asked for information regarding principals as well, feeling they and other professionals deserved to be eligible as well.
No votes were made on the matter.
SPECIAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT UPDATE
Aaron Lester, Director of Special Education, presented an overview of Special Education to the Board. Based off of recently released numbers, 624 students in the school system, or 21.3%, are special needs students out of 2,926 students overall.
“Several places were on the brink of making a jump to a higher rating. We’re working on pushing those to bring the scores up,” said Lester.
Behavior for middle school is nearly meeting partial standards and academic progress is close to increasing in both language arts and math.
“Attendance in every grade level is a concern. It has to be a focus. It starts early, in Pre-K and Kindergarten,” said Lester.
Special education students are included in the statewide testing assessments.
“With the Alternative Assessments, only 1% is allowed by the Federal Government but the State is working to have that adjusted,” said Lester. “We follow the strict guidelines, meaning only children with an IQ of 50 or below take the alternative assessment.”
Lester also went over several programs they have, including reading instruction.
“We work closely with Ms. Peyton to include all our special needs students in the intensive reading programs at an early level,” said Lester. “I really think we’ll see some progress there in the years to come. Our kids are getting this in Pre-K and 1st grade.”
Others included using technology to help with autistic students, speech services and a new physical therapy contract allowing for physical therapy in the schools for the first time in five years.
“They do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our special needs students,” said Falin. “It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, if they need to make a change, they’ll do it.”
“I’ve noticed that the grades have come up, because they’ve been very low before,” said Board Member Mike Mitchem. “Is there any way you can work with the kids that don’t want to take the test?”
“We were actually talking about doing test talks, to tell them they really need to try,” said Lester.
“That’s going to get better though, because in the beginning we found out they couldn’t navigate the test. Going to online testing, they’ve had such a hard time with it. But with all the work they’ve done that way throughout the school year will help with that.”
“We’re trying to get them more practice throughout the year, let them learn how it works,” said Falin.
Anawalt Liquidation Funds Split
“After everything has been cleaned up after the closure of Anawalt, their school balance was 13,083.87,” said Falin. “My recommendation to the Board is that the money be split up between Welch Elementary and Kimball Elementary, the two schools the students were transferred to.”
“Are they about the same amount of students,” asked Board President David Williams.
“Some have switched on their own will, but yes,” said Falin.
“Alright, I think it should be,” said Williams.
The others agreed and it was approved.
Superintendent Falin updated the board about a recent Southern Educational Services Cooperative Meeting she had attended.
“Two of the things that came out of that meeting was one, they’re looking at Career Readiness software where students can log on early and start picking careers,” said Falin. “Then they can adjust it based upon test scores and interests.”
At a previous SESC meeting, Superintendents saw presentation from a private company offering the software.
“This time it was the College Board. We were asked to hold off on deciding anything because the SESC as a State Board is looking at purchasing similar software for all schools to use,” said Falin.
Falin said she felt the SESC consensus was more in favor to opt for the State acquired software.
“The other thing is they’re looking at an SESC-wide principal training with James Agee, an investigator at the Department of Education on handling student and employee investigations,” said Falin. “That came up as a need so it’s something they’re looking to offer in the future.”
Falin’s final update concerned a discrepancy in student enrollment numbers.
“With the October count certified, there’s still a discrepancy of 10 students. When you take out the three-year olds without Individualized Education Plans and the adults in the enrollment numbers, we are down 130 students,” said Falin. “It could be as much as 140 students depending on how the discrepancy is resolved.”
To counteract the loss, the Board is currently looking at returning homeschooled students back into the public system.