Educators, elected officials discuss concerns


By Wendy Byerly Wood - [email protected]



Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe addresses concerns with local, state and national elected officials Thursday during a Legislative Dinner in the Elkin High School media center. Sitting are, from left, Casey Morrison, principal of Elkin Middle School; Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris; Jan Zachary, Elkin City Schools finance director; and Dr. Richard Brinegar, chairman of the Elkin Board of Education.


Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

State elected officials, from left, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Sarah Stevens respond to some of the concerns presented Thursday by Elkin City Schools officials.


Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Enjoying dinner during the Elkin City Schools’ elected officials gathering are, from left, Haley Sullivan, vice chair of the school board; Steva Bledsoe, wife of Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe; Allison Moxley, director of human resources for ECS; and Cynthia Altemueller, chief academic officer for ECS.


Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Visiting during Elkin City Schools’ Legislative Dinner Thursday are, from left, Surry County Commissioner Buck Golding; Pam Colbert, principal of Elkin Elementary School; N.C. Rep. Sarah Stevens; and Barbara Long, director of career and technical education for ECS.


Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

State elected officials, from left, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Sarah Stevens respond to some of the concerns presented Thursday by Elkin City Schools officials.


Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Attending Thursday’s Legislative Dinner hosted by Elkin City Schools are, from left, Dr. Jane Riley, ECS board member; state Rep. Kyle Hall, communications director for Congressman Mark Walker; Mike Fenley, field representative for Sen. Richard Burr; and state Rep. Jeffrey Elmore.


Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about concerns of Elkin City Schools officials and discussion held between the school system and local, state and national elected officials during a dinner held Jan. 7 in Elkin.

While Elkin school officials made sure to point out the high accolades the school system has received in the recent past, they also took time Thursday night during a special dinner meeting to discuss concerns they have with area state elected officials, county commissioners and representatives of the area’s national elected officials.

In years past, the Legislative Dinner hosted by Elkin City Schools has been in a lunch format with a formal tour of the school and seeing students and teachers at work, but this year, explained Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe, the idea was to have an evening event which could be more formal with more time for discussion.

System consolidation worries

Issues brought to the table by Bledsoe included a new bill which allows two county school systems to merge into one. He said, while the bill didn’t specifically say city systems in it, the topic of system consolidation has come up about every other year since he was hired as Elkin’s superintendent.

During the state officials’ time to respond to any concerns and questions and answers to take place, Rep. Sarah Stevens said unfortunately when there is a problem with one school system in the state not meeting standards or responding to direction to better the system, the state legislators cannot create a law to pinpoint just that system. So this consolidation law had to be a statewide bill to include all areas so the state would have the authority to realign school districts in that area.

“I believe in consolidation, but not in education,” said Stevens. “What minimal savings would come from it is not worth what we would lose. The competition in Mount Airy, Surry County and Elkin brings us all up.”

School calendar woes

Another concern for the local school system is the lack of control over the school calendar, with Bledsoe expressing a desire to be able to have first-semester exams completed before Christmas break.

Barbara Long, career and technical education director for ECS, explained exams aren’t until the coming week, and some students may miss their second-semester community college or online courses through the North Carolina School of Science and Math because they will be in first-semester exams for high school courses taken prior to the break.

“Let us decide when to start and when to begin. We have exams next week and we pray it doesn’t snow,” said Bledsoe. “Let’s get the first semester ended before Christmas.”

He added students might be two weeks without having anything to do because of the difference in start and end dates between the school system and the community college and online courses.

State Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, who is from Alleghany County and is an educator as well, explained the coastal legislators love the calendar law, which presently denies local school systems set a start date prior to Aug. 26 unless they are eligible for a waiver due to a large number of days missed from inclement weather each year in a certain number of years, causing some counties in the Piedmont and foothills region to be eligible some years and then not be eligible other years.

“For the urban center, it doesn’t make a difference. In the foothills, we qualify for waivers and sometimes we don’t,” said Elmore, noting the mountains always qualify for waivers so it doesn’t affect them.

He noted the law did change to say a school system has to complete a certain number of days per school year or hours, rather than and hours, to help some with that issue. But he acknowledged the school calendar law would continue to be an issue state and local officials would have to work on.

“As far as in K-6, what’s wrong with year-round education, because you don’t lose retention [of what’s been learned] from year to year,” said Stevens, who noted she used to think year-round education was a bad idea until her daughter took a job as a teacher at a year-round school in the eastern region of the state. “The reality is it should be what’s important for the kids.

“My daughter is teaching in a year-round school, and I see the difference. By the end of nine weeks, they are ready for a break, and then they come back after three weeks refreshed and ready to go,” she said of both the students and teachers.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe addresses concerns with local, state and national elected officials Thursday during a Legislative Dinner in the Elkin High School media center. Sitting are, from left, Casey Morrison, principal of Elkin Middle School; Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris; Jan Zachary, Elkin City Schools finance director; and Dr. Richard Brinegar, chairman of the Elkin Board of Education.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DSC_0278.jpgSuperintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe addresses concerns with local, state and national elected officials Thursday during a Legislative Dinner in the Elkin High School media center. Sitting are, from left, Casey Morrison, principal of Elkin Middle School; Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris; Jan Zachary, Elkin City Schools finance director; and Dr. Richard Brinegar, chairman of the Elkin Board of Education. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

State elected officials, from left, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Sarah Stevens respond to some of the concerns presented Thursday by Elkin City Schools officials.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DSC_0282.jpgState elected officials, from left, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Sarah Stevens respond to some of the concerns presented Thursday by Elkin City Schools officials. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Enjoying dinner during the Elkin City Schools’ elected officials gathering are, from left, Haley Sullivan, vice chair of the school board; Steva Bledsoe, wife of Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe; Allison Moxley, director of human resources for ECS; and Cynthia Altemueller, chief academic officer for ECS.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DSC_0274.jpgEnjoying dinner during the Elkin City Schools’ elected officials gathering are, from left, Haley Sullivan, vice chair of the school board; Steva Bledsoe, wife of Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe; Allison Moxley, director of human resources for ECS; and Cynthia Altemueller, chief academic officer for ECS. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Visiting during Elkin City Schools’ Legislative Dinner Thursday are, from left, Surry County Commissioner Buck Golding; Pam Colbert, principal of Elkin Elementary School; N.C. Rep. Sarah Stevens; and Barbara Long, director of career and technical education for ECS.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DSC_0273.jpgVisiting during Elkin City Schools’ Legislative Dinner Thursday are, from left, Surry County Commissioner Buck Golding; Pam Colbert, principal of Elkin Elementary School; N.C. Rep. Sarah Stevens; and Barbara Long, director of career and technical education for ECS. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

State elected officials, from left, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Sarah Stevens respond to some of the concerns presented Thursday by Elkin City Schools officials.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DSC_0284.jpgState elected officials, from left, Sen. Shirley Randleman, Rep. Jeffrey Elmore and Rep. Sarah Stevens respond to some of the concerns presented Thursday by Elkin City Schools officials. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

Attending Thursday’s Legislative Dinner hosted by Elkin City Schools are, from left, Dr. Jane Riley, ECS board member; state Rep. Kyle Hall, communications director for Congressman Mark Walker; Mike Fenley, field representative for Sen. Richard Burr; and state Rep. Jeffrey Elmore.
http://elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DSC_0272.jpgAttending Thursday’s Legislative Dinner hosted by Elkin City Schools are, from left, Dr. Jane Riley, ECS board member; state Rep. Kyle Hall, communications director for Congressman Mark Walker; Mike Fenley, field representative for Sen. Richard Burr; and state Rep. Jeffrey Elmore. Wendy Byerly Wood | The Tribune

By Wendy Byerly Wood

[email protected]

Elkin Tribune
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