A Special Called Meeting of the Alexander County Board of Education was held Thursday, June 29, at the Central Office in Taylorsville. Members Josh Dagenhart and Anthony McLain were absent.
In January, the state awarded $5.3 million dollars for the project. Upgrading the gym is part of a five-year facility improvement plan for the district. The board voted unanimously to go with the lowest base bid of $4.9 million with JM Cope Construction out of Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner emphasized the grant money cannot be spent for any part of the district’s operating budget and must be used for this specific capital improvement. Board member Scott Bowman, who chairs the Facilities Committee, said this project has been a long time in the making and said the people in the Sugar Loaf Community deserve these improvements.
Sugar Loaf Elementary opened in 1958 and was most recently updated in 2002 with six new classrooms. Pinnacle Architecture of Matthews has created a plan to build a new full-sized gymnasium, create new offices, change the old gym into a media center, and demolish a portion of the facility at a price tag of $5.5 million dollars at Sugar Loaf.
The money comes from the state’s Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. Funding for buildings and improvements falls under the responsibility of the counties, according to state law. From time to time, the state releases grant money for capital projects. Most recently, Alexander County Schools received $1.38 million dollars for a new roof at Bethlehem Elementary from the state fund.
The needs-based funding is money the state takes off the top of lottery proceeds and awards to districts. Alexander County often is eligible for state funding that other districts do not get because it’s considered a Tier Two county. The tier designation is based on the median county income, average unemployment rate, and property tax base. The county commission has agreed to contribute $265,000, or five percent, of matching money to complete the Sugar Loaf project.
Trojanowski named Transportation Director
Alexander County Schools has a new transportation director. The spot has been open since the retirement of director John McCurdy, who worked with ACS for 34 years. Retired director from Caldwell County, Kevin Brittain, has been filling in since March 29.
The new hire comes with 19 years of transportation experience in Iredell County. Jami Trojanowski has been a routing specialist and parts manager at the bus garage in Iredell and is credited with patching together funds to build a wash bay for buses in Iredell. Trojanowski says she’s excited to get to work.
“I started as a bus driver and said I wanted to work toward my next goal,” says Trojanowski. She looks forward to meeting and working with transportation staff.
“I can pull together a team and make it the top team in the school system,” adds Trojanowski. The new director is expected to start this month.
Resolution on vouchers
The board also approved a resolution opposing proposed changes for Universal Non-public School Vouchers.
The state legislature is offering to lift the income cap for families who receive a non-public school voucher. The vouchers were established in 2013 to help low-income families. The adopted ACS resolution establishes that the North Carolina Constitution requires the state to provide for a free and equitable education. The resolution also says the voucher expansion would create an unequal playing field for private and public school students. Among the concerns from those who oppose the vouchers:
• Private schools are allowed to deny admission to students who do not meet their requirements.
• Private schools are not required to serve free/reduced lunch, offer transportation, or provide special education services
• Private schools are not required to have certified teachers.
• Private schools do not have to conduct background checks on employees or volunteers.
• Private schools do not have to follow a state curriculum.
• Private schools are not required to report results of standardized tests.
• Private schools do not undergo audits on finances. Recently, media have reported that some private schools collected more voucher money than they had students.
The State Office of Budget and Management estimates that Alexander County Schools could lose $1.4 million dollars if vouchers are expanded.