During Monday’s regular school board meeting for Elkin City Schools, several students and staff members were recognized, and several policies were revised after updates from the N.C. School Board Association.
Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe recognized principals from the elementary school, middle school and high school for having the highest graduation rate in the state.
Bledsoe said the graduation rate is not only associated with the high school, but also elementary and middle schools.
“Our work, kindergarten through high school, is truly what makes our system first in the state,” said Bledsoe. “There’s connectivity throughout the school system.
“A drop out doesn’t just happen in high school,” he said recently. “(A student’s) foundation begins in elementary school with nurturing, caring teachers, and it continues in our middle school, and, of course, our high school. The graduation rate is not just symbolic of our high school; it is also symbolic of our elementary and middle schools.
“I continue to talk about the importance of the graduation rate and getting every child to their future,” said Bledsoe. “The most important thing our teachers do is deliver high quality curriculum and build relationships with their students. They connect with their kids.
“We truly are a caring system with great teachers who make a difference,” he continued. “That’s one of the areas that makes us so special.”
Elkin High School Principal Mark Byrd recognized teacher Chaise Swisher and students in his class for completion of a recent project.
“One of the things that keeps some of our students interested is neat projects put together by teachers,” said Byrd.
Students in Swisher’s class were instructed to create a chair, using just cardboard and masking tape, that would hold a person of at least 200 pounds.
“They can design any chair they want, but it has to be as light as possible and also hold me,” said Swisher, who noted the Cardboard Chair Project focuses on problem-solving.
He recognized Samuel Parral, Sandra Rendon, Daniel Fritz and Rodrigo Martinez for their chair, which was on display at the board meeting.
“On the inside, we have a grid of cardboard,” said Parral. “We decided to do two so it would be stronger.”
Swisher said, “They did a checkerboard,” describing the way the grid looks inside the chair.
“It’s really fun to see the kids so excited,” said Byrd. “The kids have done an unbelievable job. I don’t think some of these projects get enough recognition.”
Byrd also recognized Occupational Course of Study Teacher Jill Loftin during the board meeting Monday night.
After the previous OCS teacher left, Loftin was hired for the position as a temporary replacement.
“In a short amount of time, it became very evident that kids and their success was her main focus,” said Byrd. “She impressed us from day one as she clearly didn’t treat this job like it was temporary. She continually focused on making sure students were going to be successful in the future, whether she was in that teaching position or not.
“It was her dedication during this temporary work situation that helped us to see that she was the best fit for all of Elkin High School, but most important, for our students,” he continued.
Byrd also noted Loftin has secured additional work opportunities for students, written a successful grant from Wal-Mart and engaged students in numerous projects and activities.
Loftin, who is in her 11th year of teaching, said, “I had no experience—just a desire to do this job. I can’t wait to get here in the mornings. It’s a great job.” Loftin has also worked with Surry County Schools and Millenium Charter.
Following recognition of students and staff, Bledsoe announced revisions to several policies and introduced two new policies to the board.
“We’ve had an update from the N.C. School Board Association, letting us know we need to make some changes to our policies,” said Bledsoe.
Several policies, already in place in the school system, received small changes to the policy title, terminology within the policy and legal references, said Bledsoe.
The first reading of the policies to be revised included the following policies: #1510 School Safety, #1610 Professional and Staff Development, #3300 School Calendar of Time for Learning, #3110 Innovation in Curriculum and Instruction, #3530 Citizenship and Character Education, #4155 Assignment to Classes, #7240 Drug-Free and Alcohol-Free Workplace, #7930 Professional Employees Demotion and Dismissal, and #7950 Probationary Teachers: Nonrenewal.
For policy #3300, Bledsoe noted, “The major change is that it increased the number of instructional days and the number of instructional hours.” He said the 180-day school year has been increased to 185 days.
Of policy #3530, he said, “The (citizenship and character development education events and activities) are things we already do. I’d like for us to step it up just a little bit.”
New policies introduced for first reading were #4050 Children of Military Families and #7811 Plans for Growth and Improvement of Licensed Employees.
“I think it is important we put (policy #4050) in place in support of our military families,” said Bledsoe. The policy focuses on the board’s recognition of the increased risk of emotional, psychological or other harm for students whose immediate family members are deployed by the military and the importance of educating employees on the unique needs of these students.
The policy also requires the board collect information and annually report to the State Board of Education the number of students residing in the school system who have immediate family members who have served since Sept. 1, 2011, and whether the school system employees a person trained to provide specific support services.
“We’re in good shape,” Bledsoe said of all policies. “But, we did want to follow recommendations from the State Board. The legislators, each year, are touching so many of our policies,” he said, noting several revisions were required after changes in legislation.
Members of the board and Bledsoe thanked Brenda Dembowski, administrative assistant, for her work in typing policy revisions.
“It’s a great job Ms. Brenda does for us,” said Bledsoe. “She does a great job keeping all these policies straight.”
The revised and new policies will undergo a second reading at next month’s school board meeting.