The Mecklenburg County School Board met to discuss upcoming policy changes, student handbooks, senior of the month recognitions, and distance education preparations for the 2020/2021 school year on Monday evening, May 18.

Dr. Jeff Scales presented the Park View and Bluestone Seniors of the Month. Deandre Craighead, from Bluestone, was honored as the April Senior of the Month and Hite Jones as the May Senior of the Month. The Park View Senior of the Month of April is Bruce King III and for the month of May, Bianca Minter. Mrs. Vickie Soyars of South Hill was recognized as the Mecklenburg County Teacher of the Year for her work with students and staff at Park View High School. Lastly, the Board took a moment to show appreciation for the Facebook “Adopt a Graduate” program that was started by two former Bluestone graduates, Jennifer Diamond Garnett and Malyka Walton. “We had two students that graduated from our school system that took it upon themselves to try and get recognition for all of the seniors that are graduating. What they came up with was “Adopt a Graduate”. They started out small but it grew. I’ve seen it on Facebook and it has been a wild success on both ends of the county.” said Vice Chairman, Dora Garner. “This proves that our students and the people in our county, can come together to make our seniors have a very special graduation. I would like to recognize them and thank them personally for what they have done.” Jennifer and Malyka will both be presented with a plaque of appreciation and recognition by the School Board. 

Mr. Abe Jeffers discussed the new revisions to the Virginia School Board Association Policy for the Board to review. The biggest change that people will notice is the difference in the student code of conduct. “It used to have it’s own section and now it’s recommended that it be removed as a separate regulation and then it became part of our policy and general circumstances,” explained Jeffers. There were also changes made to the Community Use of Facility section of the policy. The current policy requires that a school custodian be present at any non-school group event in the facility. The proposed revision would only require a custodian for non-school groups of more than 50 people.  Wanda Bailey asked how the school would verify that only 50 people would be in attendance. Mr. Jeffers explained that there would be a bit of an honor code involved in this policy. 

Mrs. Alga continued the policy change presentation starting with the number of personal days provided to employees. The proposal is to provide three personal days annually instead of two, add three bereavement days annually so that employees do not have to use sick days in the event of a death of a family member, add a religious holiday to the calendar “because [the schools] are becoming more diverse”, add a regulation for permission to take leave prior to and after a holiday, and removal of business days due to the cost to employees. “It is a $60 daily deduction for our certified folks and $15 a day for our classified individuals.” says Alga. A template will be sent to faculty and staff for review before the Board votes to adopt the policy amendments. 

Mrs. Wanda Bailey asked if any staff members were involved in the policy update procedures to which Mrs. Alga responded that the staff has offered feedback that was taken into consideration, but none of the staff was directly involved in the changes.  

The next topic up for discussion was a policy regarding the signing bonus’ that has been in place. “Because this year, I do not believe that we are fiscally able to provide for those bonus’, we would like to delete that policy. It was relative to mathematics, Spanish, special education, and secondary sciences. This was a $5000 bonus for whenever we hired anyone in and I’m pretty sure we maxed that out last year but I can not see us being able to do that this year.” said Alga.

Dr. Scales presented the changes made to the student handbook. The only change discussed was that the secondary handbook has been separated to reflect separate handbooks to be provided for the middle and high schools. The changes made to the policies and handbooks will be voted on at the June regular monthly meeting. 

Mr. Nichols moved onto the topic of instructional issues starting with the preparation of continued distance educations. He pointed out other issues that need to be addressed for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year including internet access for all students should the need for distance education arise and the concerns over the basis that Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, has put into place for students to return to school and the impact that it will have on sporting events, instructional activities, etc. “We see the need for significant training for our teachers for distance education as a primary task. I give the teachers huge credit for the work that they have done since March the 13th.” He continued, “We also have identified, with much of the state’s direction, a learning platform that will give us the option of connecting and having our text books online, being able to send our Chrome Books home with students, and having the teachers with a platform that will integrate all of their curriculum, their pacing guides, their scoping sequence, each of those components in one place whether the students are in school or at home. The particular program that we have selected is virtual Virginia.” Mr. Nichols pointed out that he does not want to give anyone the idea that distance education is the goal for the next school year, but simply to be prepared for the possibility. 

Internet access surveys will be sent to teachers and students to determine what internet access that have at home so that the appropriate planning can begin on an individual basis. The school is working with businesses such as Microsoft and Mecklenburg Electric to come up with ways to provide internet services to students who may be without. According to Mr. Nichols, Microsoft has planned a “big announcement” for May 28. He is not sure that it pertains to this issue but has a feeling that it might have something to do with the conversations that they have been having. 

Another issue that the school system faces is, as of right now, the state is projected to be barely into Phase 3 of the Governor’s “Forward Virginia” plan by mid-August which will have an impact on the scheduled August 10 start date for next year. “I want us to be well prepared for that.” says Nichols. Some schools have looked at alternating days for students but Mr. Nichols did point out that he would like to avoid that if possible because of the extra work for staff and faculty. 

For more details from the meeting please visit the  Mecklenburg County Public School’s Youtube Channel for a complete visual recording of the meeting. The School Board will be again on Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m.