By ANGELA FARR KING
The Alexander County Board of Education held their monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 13. The meeting began with second graders from Stony Point Elementary School, Chloe Laws and Paislee Smith, leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Dr. Jennifer Hefner, Superintendent, began the meeting with honors and recognitions. Each year, the Alexander County School System holds a competition for students to submit artwork for the District’s official holiday card. Hefner stated that there were 236 entries this year in four age categories. The winner for PreK-2nd grade was Caroline Bowles, a first grader from Bethlehem Elementary School. The 3rd-5th grade winner was Isabella Haithcox, a 3rd grader from Ellendale Elementary School. The 6th-8th grade winner was Hadley Walsh, a 6th grader from West Alexander Middle School, and the 9th-12th grade winner was Megan Parker, an 11th grader from Alexander Central High School. Each winner received copies of the cards printed for their personal use, a framed copy of their artwork, and a gift certificate.
Next, Dr. Hefner recognized students who placed with Honorable Mention Awards for a poster contest held by the North Carolina School Board Association. Students submitted posters about their favorite teachers. Ella Carswell, a kindergartener from Bethlehem Elementary School, was not in attendance at the meeting due to illness, but was recognized. Maleaha Lewis, a 4th grader from Bethlehem Elementary School, was also recognized for her poster. Two Sugar Loaf Elementary students, River Jones in 5th grade, and Rachel Dagenhart in 1st grade, were recognized as well.
The recognitions continued with schools being recognized for having met or exceeded growth on standardized testing at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Those schools who met growth were Stony Point Elementary School and the Alexander Virtual Academy. Those schools who exceeded growth were Alexander Early College, Alexander Central High School, and West Alexander Middle School.
The Alexander Early College was honored for having a 98% graduation rate at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 school year.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Jeanine Harrington asked several questions to the board pertaining to the way drug tests are administered at ACHS, the Covid Vaccine, and students identifying as cats or dogs while at school. The board is not permitted to answer questions during public comments, but assured Harrington that she could have her questions answered at a later time and date.
Andy Palmer, the Principal of Stony Point Elementary School, gave the monthly school update. His school has recently revised their vision and mission statements to be more understandable to staff and students. Their mission statement is simply, “To Grow the Whole Child.” Their vision statement is “Do whatever it takes.” They are focusing on reading improvement as a main goal for this school year and the children repeat this mantra daily, “I am smart. I am important. I can do hard things.” He talked about recent successes with parent involvement nights and stated that they had over 100 of their 181 students attend their most recent Family Night.
In her Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Hefner reported that there were some recent grants awarded to teachers in the school system. Her report states that “Natasha Haas from Alexander Central High School received two grants from the NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council to get students outside and active. The first grant, totaling $2,750, will allow the senior AP Academy students to raft at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. These students were freshmen when the Covid Pandemic began. The grant is a way to acknowledge their hard work and perseverance. The second grant totaling $2,000 will allow all AP Academy students to go to Carrigan Farms in Mooresville to swim, hike, and participate in outdoor leadership activities.”
Liz Cronan, of Sugar Loaf Elementary School, was awarded the Go Grant. The grant, totaling $3,000, will be used to cover half the cost for the 5th graders to experience Camp Herring Ridge this spring.
JD Sink and Scottie Cook from Alexander Central High School have been awarded the Duke Energy grant, totaling $4,000, for their plant propagation project.
Dr. Hefner stated that an Appreciation Reception has been planned for the outgoing board members: Matt Cooksey, Marty Loudermilt, David Odom, and Harry Schrum. This will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 20th, from 3:30-5:30, and all school system staff are invited to attend.
In unfinished Business, Chief Financial Officer Sharon Mehaffey brought forth one board policy item for approval after the second reading: Policy No. 6560 pertaining to Disposal of Surplus Property. She stated that Policy No. 6220 pertaining to Operation of School Nutrition Services needs more revisions.
Three policies were brought forth from Mehaffey for first readings: Policy No. 7620, Payroll Deductions, Policy No. 7815, Evaluation of Non-Licensed Employees, Policy No. 8320, Depositories.
Dr. Hefner noted that all school facilities will be closed for Winter Break from Thursday, December 22, through Monday, January 2. There will be Optional Teacher Workdays from Tuesday, January 3, through Friday, January 6. The next School Board Meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 10, at 6 p.m. at the Board of Education Building.