The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was on the minds of the Anson County Board of Education members as they held their regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Board chair Lisa Davis started off the public session of the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of those killed in the shooting Dec. 14. In his monthly report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Greg Firn also spoke of the massacre. “Words cannot begin to describe the emotions, feelings or reactions evoked by this tragic event,” he wrote in his report.
However, he stressed that as of Monday, the school system was “moving forward.” Although Dr. Firn said he cannot disclose all the security protocols in place, he assured the board, “I can and will state that we have put in place in each of our schools — especially the elementary schools — protocols that are designed to ensure as humanely possible the safety and security of students and staff.”
In other business, after a longtime athletics official proposed the idea, the board will discuss at its January meeting renaming the press box at the Anson High School Stadium in honor of David H. Thomas. Thomas has been the public address speaker for many years, but can no longer work due to his battle with Alzheimer’s.
In his monthly report to the board, Chief Operating Officer Michael Freeman stated that there is only one job opening in Anson County Schools at the moment, for a math teacher at Anson High School. He also reported that there are a number of new hires within the school district.
Chief Financial Officer Holly Berry gave the board an update on the budget, saying that it’s “still performing fairly well.” During Berry’s report, school board member Russell Sikes said that he’s been approached by several people in the community about how the school system pays for its technology, particularly the laptops that all high school students have. Berry responded that most of the computers are paid for through grant money. Sikes said he’s also gotten some complaints that the administration is “top heavy.” Berry said that most administration positions are also funded by grants, and that’s why many of the positions “move around.”
“We need to be sure that the community understands that their tax money goes toward students, not salaries,” Davis said.
Executive director for teaching and learning Howard McLean gave the board his monthly discipline/suspension report, which showed that suspensions at Anson High have decreased noticeably since last year. Firn praised McLean’s leadership for the reduction.
When the consent items came up for approval on the agenda, new school board member Mike Turner questioned how some of the items up for approval are funded, particularly a contract with Futures Education, which costs over $500,000 a year for the next three years. Turner questioned contracting for the services provided, which are for special education such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. The funding comes from the state and federal government, Firn explained, and it is required that the school system provide these services. Before contracting with Futures Education, a company in Charlotte was used, and it cost the school system more than $800,000 a year, Firn said. After this discussion, the consent items were approved unanimously.
The school board also approved its 7000 Series Policies and considered new Internet safety and technology policies for a first reading.
The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Charles Riddle Staff Development Center in Wadesboro.