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December 08, 2023

Critical Race Theory concerns aired to school board


The Alexander County Board of Education met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 8, at Alexander Central Auditorium where a lengthy discussion was had regarding the controversial topic of Critical Race Theory being introduced into the social studies curriculum.

Rev. Mitch King spoke for Alexander County Citizens for Faith and Family Values. Rev. King spoke against the introduction of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Alexander County Schools. His speech was two fold, one being to inform the board of the dangers of a CRT world view that is racist and derisive, and secondly urging the board to take action to ban CRT from being introduced to Alexander County Schools.

King presented a petition signed by 750 concerned citizens of Alexander County. The petition outlines reasons CRT will be harmful to students. King also petitioned the board to add this as an agenda item to a future meeting where action can be taken. He also asked the board to become a sanctuary school district for the wellbeing of the students. King went on to point out CRT would be against existing board policy 1710-4020-7230: Discrimination and Harassment Prohibited by federal law, stating in part, the board prohibits discrimination on basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, disability, etc. King noted, “I may be missing something here, but a world view that separates individuals based on skin color and then identifies the individual as oppressors, regardless of their individual actions, seems to go against the non-discrimination policy that is already in place. We ask that you ban CRT as part of the curriculum in Alexander County.”

Rusty McKee also spoke in opposition of CRT implementation in school curriculum. McKee noted, “CRT divides us with no plan of reconciliation. It pits one people group against another with no hope of a remedy. Furthermore, this Marxist inspired ideology declares that oppressors will always be oppressors and the oppressed will always be oppressed regardless of character, service, social, or financial status. The offense is permanent in its divisiveness. There is no plan for reconciliation offered.”

McKee went on to state, “I believe that CRT is an evil strategy to divide, weaken, and subvert our constitutional public for the purpose of replacing it with a centralized, top down government that abolishes our constitutional representative government. I urge each of you to resist the imposition of CRT wherever it raises its ugly head, but as gatekeepers of our children’s education, hold back this harmful teaching that can twist children’s minds to hate one another.”

ACHS student Ana Gray spoke to the board of personal experiences. Gray noted, “The resolution presents the notion that if we teach our children on the premise of CRT then we will, and I quote, only inflame and worsen the division that already exists. Although this is not a laughing matter, I find this statement comical to a certain extent. The statement acknowledges the fact there is a racial divide while advocating for our education system to bury it. There is no way to amend the existing vision without education and acknowledgment. White privilege is real, racism is real, oppression is real, these evils exist in this world that we live in, and exist in our American society.”

Gray went on to state, “In my experience, I find that when my teacher addresses racism, I am much more comfortable in their classroom. I feel as if I am seen and heard. I feel as if I am respected, by just a simple act of acknowledging that my reality is different because I am a minority.”

Gray closed by noting, “We have to have uncomfortable conversations with our kids to ensure that the mistakes of our past are not repeated. Education is important, especially when it has to deal with topics such as these, where lives and futures are concerned.”

Another ACHS student, Hunter Jamison, also spoke in regards to his white perspective and experiences throughout high school involving CRT education and the lens through which systematic oppressions is taught in schools. Jamison spoke about his experiences attending many of the social studies programs taught through Alexander County schools that have been the cause of much criticism in the past. Jamison noted a few things he has noticed throughout his school career, stating, “There seems to be alot of misunderstanding about what CRT actually is. The notion is that it is teaching students differently than they have been taught in the past; however, it is more of a lens in which history is taught through. We are not changing what is actually being taught but rather acknowledge a different perspective.”

Jamison went on to say, “While I realize that the topic of CRT in schools can be perceived as an avenue for liberal officials to educate children in ways that would make them more likely to agree with leftists on social justice matters, this is not the case. This view is based solely on the fact that the CRT teachings often offend those who disagree with them. They create feelings of uncomfortable, however these feelings of uncomfort are needed. The temporary moments of discomfort which I have felt as a white student have not been a consequence of student liberalization. They have not made me hate America or disagree with my Christian values in any way. However, they have made me more socially aware and more able to comment on racial issues without being ignorant as to the challenges that minorities suffer though. CRT is not going to change the way that we teach history in our schools, rather, it is going to acknowledge the fact that the way we have been teaching history previously has not included the view of many important minority citizens.”

Associate Super-intendent Dr. Betsy Curry presented on North Carolina Social Studies Standards and Curriculum Deveopment. Curry began her presentation by stating that the development of curriculum is locally controlled. She explained the difference in standards and curriculum and how they are developed. The North Carolina Standard Course of Study defines the appropriate content standards for each grade level and high school course to provide a uniform set of learning standards for every public school in North Carolina. These standards define what students should know and be able to do at each level.

The standards are the foundation of the framework, but local school leaders decide the comprehensive curriculum delivered to students within their schools. An analogy by Stu Silberman explains it this way: “If you’ve ever used Google maps, you know Google gives you a choice of different routes to get to your destination. The destination is the standard, and the route is the curriculum.”
Developing the curriculum in Alexander County Schools includes unpacking the standards, developing the pacing guides, planning the backwards design, learning-focused lesson plans (LFLP), and applying a vetting process for LFLP.

Local teachers are directly involved in developing the standards, along with instructional coaches and administrators. This process includes the selection of materials for lessons. Curriculum documents are available for review on the district website.

WINS REGIONAL SPELLING BEE — Alexander County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner (left) and school board member Marty Loudermilt (right) presented Brianna Jimison, Regional Spelling Bee winner (center), with recognition of her win at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Jimison, an 8th-grade Virtual Academy student, won the Regional Spelling Bee at Panthers Stadium on March 21. She will compete with 208 spellers from across the U.S. and around the globe in the National Spelling Bee starting June 12.

Honors & Recognitions

Brianna Jimison, an 8th-grade Virtual Academy student, advanced to the Regional Spelling Bee competition at the Carolina Panthers stadium on Sunday, March 21. The competition went 20 rounds, with Jimison winning the regional event by correctly spelling the word “interrelate.” Jimison will compete with 208 spellers from across the US and around the globe in the National Spelling Bee. Beginning June 12, spellers will compete virtually in the first three rounds of competition: the Preliminaries, Quarterfinals, and Semifinals. The top 10-12 spellers will compete in person at the finals on July 8 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.

Alexander County Commission Chairman Larry Yoder presented the school system with an award for their partnership in the inaugural Alexander County 24-hour Race, the last-chance qualifier for the USA Track & Field (USATF) 24-Hour National Team. The race was limited to 50 runners and held on the track at Cougar Stadium on May 1-2, 2021.

FOR RACE HOSTING — Alexander County Commission Chairman Larry Yoder presented Alexander County Schools with recognition for hosting the 24 Hour Race on May 1-2 at Alexander Central High School. Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner (right) accepted the award from Yoder (left) at the June 8 Board of Education meeting.

Alexander County administration and school board members recognized 56 school system employees as they retired from the school system with a reception and award presentation on Tuesday, June 8. The recognition included retirees from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.

Due to COVID restrictions last June, a reception for the 2019-2020 retirees was postponed. Recent changes to the pandemic guidelines allowed for a combined celebration. A reception was held at Alexander Central High School cafeteria prior to Tuesday’s school board meeting. Each retiree received a plaque presented by a school board member at the honors and recognition portion of the school board meeting. Retirees recognized are:

2019-2020 Retirees

Alexander Central High School
Darrell R. Adkins, Business Teacher, 1996-2020
Scotty P. Miller, CTE Business Teacher, 2016-2020

Student Success Center
Annette L. Wiley-Picard, Teacher, 2018-2020

Bethlehem Elementary
Jane Bolick, Nutrition Assistant, 1994-1996 & 1999-2020
Jennifer S. Conner, Nutrition Assistant, 1998-2002 & 2004-2020
Deborah I. Crowder, Permanent Substitute, 2001-2009 & 2009-2020
Debra B. Jolly, Teacher Assistant, 1999-2009 & 2009-2019

East Alexander Middle School
Sharon G. Howell, Nutrition Assistant, 2001-2002 & 2002-2019
Samuel D. Pinnix, Custodian, 2000-2019
Janice C. Tester, Permanent Substitute, 1989-1992 / 2003-2004 / 2007-2020

Ellendale Elementary School
Kari I. Harrington, Teacher, 2002-2015 & 2019-2020
Sheila S. Pennell, Nutrition Assistant, 1993-2020
Amy H. Sipe, Music Teacher, 1992-2020

Hiddenite Elementary School
Susan K. Gwaltney, Teacher Assistant, 1989-2020
Susan W. Lackey, Nutrition Assistant, 2010-2020

Stony Point Elementary School
Sharon B. Alexander, Teacher, 2000-2020
Marilyn L. Angle, Teacher, 2004-2020
Angela R. Lail, Custodian, 1988-1989 & 1999-2019
Cynthia Rector, EC Teacher Assistant, 1997-1998 & 2001-2020

Sugar Loaf Elementary School
Karen M. Loudermelk, Teacher Assistant, 2000-2016 & 2019-2020
Tracy E. Sigmon, Teacher Assistant, 1996-2019
Tammy B. Watts, Teacher, 1990-2001 & 2002-2020

Taylorsville Elementary School
William C. Miller, PE Teacher, 1988-2019
Susan C. Watts, Teacher Assistant, 1995-2020

West Alexander Middle School
Arnold Cogswell Jr., Social Studies Teacher, 2004 – 2019
Kathy A. Rector, EC Teacher Assistant, 1999-2020

Wittenburg Elementary School
Susan W. Winkler, Nutrition Assistant, 2010-2020

Transportation Department
Conrad L. Millsaps, Transportation, 1994-2003 & 2004-2020
Deidria D. Watts, Transportation Assistant, 1999-2019

2020-2021 Retirees

Alexander Central High School
Jonathan B. Gailes, Science Teacher, 2016-2020
Susan S. Gantt, CTE Director, 1991-2021
Kimberly L. Howell, Teacher, 1997-2001 & 2014-2021
Dennis S. Jones, EC Teacher, 1989-1992 & 2003-2020
Garry L. Stafford, Band Director, 1979-2003 & 2012-2020

Student Success Center
Dr. Lisa D. Harrington, Coordinator, 1994-2009 & 2014-2020
Elizabeth A. Herman, Teacher, 1999-2020
James A. Mayes, Teacher, 2017-2021

Bethlehem Elementary School
Teresa K. Parsons, BASC Site Coordinator, 1994-1996 & 1996-2021
Jennifer D. Patterson, Teacher, 1992-2021
Debbie O. Teague, Teacher Assistant, 1993-1996 & 1996-2020

East Alexander Middle School
Caroline R. Bebber, Secretary, 1999-2021
Linda C. Chapman, Educational Interpreter, 2009-2021
Karen M. Millsaps, Custodian, 1991-2020
Teresa B. Riddle, Teacher, 1998-2021

Ellendale Elementary School
Jennifer P. Mull, Teacher, 1979-2014 & 2017-2021

Hiddenite Elementary School
Debra G. Beckham, Teacher Assistant, 1996-2000 & 2000-2021
Dolores A. Fox, Teacher, 2017-2021
Tammy B. Marlowe, Teacher, 2006-2021

Stony Point Elementary School
Christopher L. Hefner, Teacher, 1993-2021
Tracye M. Vanstory, Teacher, 1989-2021

Sugar Loaf Elementary School
Cary B. Cash, Principal, 1989-2021
Rejena F. Shook, Nutrition Assistant, 1993-2021

Taylorsville Elementary School
Melony D. Brown, Receptionist, 2007-2021

West Alexander Middle School
Trina B. Coffey, Nutrition Assistant, 2001-2003 & 2018-2021

Maintenance Department
Larry F. Bumgarner, Plumber, 1986-1990 & 2001-2020

Central Office
Tracy G. Russell, PowerSchool Coord. & HR Assist, 1992-1993 & 1994-2020


2019-2020 AND 2020-2021 SCHOOL Retirees — Alexander County Schools 2019-2020 retirees are shown above on the left side of the handrail and 2020-2021 retirees on the right side of the rail. They were honored with a reception June 8, 2021, at Alexander Central High School cafeteria. Pictured above, left to right: front row – Debra Jolly, Deborah Crowder, Jennifer Patterson, Tammy Marlowe, and Garry Stafford; second row – Amy Sipe, Jennifer Conner, Jane Bolick, Rejena Shook, Debra Beckham, and Jennifer Mull; third row: Marilyn Angle, Tammy Watts, Chris Hefner, Teresa Riddle, and Dolores Fox; fourth row – Susan Gwaltney, Sharon Alexander, Susan Gantt, Cary Cash, and Caroline Bebber; back row – Tracy Sigmon, Darrell Adkins, and Kathy Rector.

Student Success Center and ACHS Update

Alexander Central High School principal Gordon Palmer presented an update on the Student Success Center, reporting 100 percent of seniors in the program graduated this year.

Palmer indicated that the center’s success is attributed to increased rigor and academic expectations, behavior expectations, a more positive school culture, and staff leadership development.
Palmer continued his presentation, focusing on Alexander Central High School. He likened the 2020-2021 school year to a sprint and a marathon, indicating when new legislation, an executive order, or safety protocol was introduced, the school staff had to adjust quickly to the changes. He suggested it was also like a marathon trying to safely get to the end of the school year with positive outcomes.

The school celebrated a new full-time college advisor, Beta Club accomplishment, Career and Technical Education (CTE) highlights, athletic recognitions, graduation, and the inaugural AP Academy class graduation.

The high school noted many community partners, including Victory Shine Car Wash, Scotty’s Hometown Grill, Burger Basket, The Taylorsville Times, PJ’s Seafood and Steak, Teens and Deen’s Country Kitchen, Farm Bureau Insurance of Taylorsville, Andi Jack Realty Team of Remax Traditions, Chapman Cattleman Co., Harrington Electrical Contractors, Huntington House Furniture, Locke Lane, Fister Fence, Mike Johnson Hickory Toyota, Basic Finance, Army National Guard, Iredell – Family Care Center, Taylorsville Police – Chief Bowman, Alexander County Sheriff’s Office – Chris Bowman, Alexander County fire departments, Emergency Management, County Commissioners, County Manager – Rick French, Economic Development, Town Manager David Odom, Habitat for Humanity, and the Alexander County Board of Education.

Child Nutrition Update
Child Nutrition Director Kathy Caudle highlighted the changes the program has made to meet the nutritional needs of children in the county. The staff now prepare meals and package them for individual distribution to meet high safety standards. The program has faced food and supply shortages, significant increases in prices, and limited staff. The Child Nutrition department staff have provided meals to students in the school setting, for daily pick-up, bulk distribution holiday meals, and meal deliveries to homes using buses.
The board members approved the dairy bid and rollover bids for the remaining vendors in the child nutrition program.

Committee Reports, Award of Honor

Marty Loudermilt reported the 2021 Award of Honor recipient Aaron Spry would be recognized on August 29 at 3 p.m. in the Alexander Central Auditorium. A surprise announcement was coordinated with members of the committee, the central office staff, and the Spry family to let Mr. Spry know he was selected.

Athletic Booster Club

Scott Bowman reported the club is looking forward to returning to regular athletic events. They are working on a banner sales program. The club will provide new or updated banners for businesses, groups, or organizations.

Head Start

Matt Cooksey reported meeting with the Parent Policy Council. He indicated the council is eager to contribute insights to the program.

Superintendent’s Report

Schools Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner announced principal evaluations started this week and should be finalized by June 23.

Summer work hours will begin for all 11- and 12-month employees this week. As in past years, all work sites will be open Monday through Thursday and closed on Fridays.

She presented a brief update on the Sugar Loaf cafeteria project. The freezer and cooler have been installed. The painting is in process, and the outside walls for the cafeteria manager’s office have been installed. The electrical inspection should occur by the first of next week. After the inspection, the flooring, new doors, HVAC, and inside walls will be completed. The project completion date is set for July 1.

Dr. Hefner reminded board members and the public that the July Board meeting date is Tuesday, July 20, at 6 p.m.

The board approved four policy revisions after the second reading and six were presented for a first reading. These will be brought back for a second reading at the next meeting. Alexander County Board Policies are available for review by the public at or by appointment at the Alexander County Board of Education Office on Liledoun Road, Taylorsville, North Carolina.

Alexander Early College Calendar Changes

The school board approved the revisions to the Alexander Early College 2021-2022 academic calendar. The updated calendar is posted below.

Career and CTE Plan

School board members approved the CTE plan presented by director Susan Gantt.

She began with an update on the middle schools. She identified four teachers are teaching two business tracts and career awareness. Students were able to participate in Camp Med at the end of the school year. Gantt detailed high school courses and new programs, including heavy equipment operator and industrial systems technician programs. Although the Fire Academy classes were not offered, due to COVID regulations, the Fire Academy open house is set for this fall.

Use of Capital Building Fund Request

School board members voted to approve the use of the $262,823 balance of funds in the public school building capital fund to purchase electronic active boards to replace outdated boards. A classroom active board is recognized as an essential classroom instructional tool.

The next meeting of the Alexander County Board of Education will be held on July 20, 2021, at Alexander Central Auditorium starting at 6:00 p.m.

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