Teaching scholarships on hold|Grow Our Own students remain safe from cuts

Published 2:06 am Thursday, February 17, 2011

Contributing Writer

Citing expected budget and staff cutbacks, the Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday voted to suspend a scholarship program for local high-school graduates who want to become teachers.
The vote prompted one board member to accuse other board members of “playing politics” with public-school students.
The board voted 6-1 to suspend the program, known as Grow Our Own, which is intended to ensure a steady supply of new, licensed teachers for the school system. Board member Eltha S. Booth cast the sole dissenting vote.
The board’s action followed discussion of the issue at the board’s January meeting. At that meeting, the board failed to take action on the issue even after one of its committees recommended that the program be suspended.
Booth questioned why the issue was reconsidered Tuesday.
“Everybody that was here last month, with the exception of (board member) Cindy (Winstead), is here tonight,” Booth said. “If there was no action last month, why the action this month?”
Booth also said she heard “conversations” about the issue among several board members following last month’s meeting. She said the move to reconsider the scholarship program was “playing politics with children’s lives.”
“I just want things done fairly,” she said.
Board member Mike Isbell told Booth that he did not move to bring the issue to a vote last month because he needed more time to study the issue before voting on it.
The vote does not affect scholarships already awarded.
The seven students receiving scholarships of $6,000 a year will be notified by letter that their scholarships will not be affected.
Following that discussion, a motion by Booth that the board would not reconsider an issue once it had acted or failed to act on it failed by a 3-6 vote, with Booth and board members E.C. Peed and Barbara Boyd-Williams voting in favor of the motion. 
In other business, the board:
• Unanimously strengthened its policy governing help for students who are at risk of failing their course work to give help to those students earlier than state law requires. While state regulations require schools to identify students at risk of failing and develop plans for those students by the fourth grade, the local policy will now provide help to those students as early as kindergarten.
• Discussed, but did not change, the policy that pays for advanced-placement exams. Currently, 176 students in Beaufort County Schools are enrolled in advanced-placement courses. The school system estimates the cost of those exams will be about $12,500. Board member Terry Williams said that while the school system needs to look for ways to save money, it should not penalize students who are trying to excel in their studies.
“We definitely need to save money,” he said, “but this is not the place to do that.”
• Discussed, but did not change, the school system’s policy that pays for textbooks for students enrolled in community college, online and learn-and-earn high-school classes. Currently, 281 Beaufort County school students are enrolled in these classes. The school system estimates the cost of these textbooks to be $4,107.67 as of Feb. 14. 
• Unanimously approved a $508,153.28 contract for installation of a wireless local area network for Beaufort County Schools.
• Unanimously approved a four-page personnel agenda and, as part of that agenda, named Kimberly Gibbs assistant principal for P.S. Jones Middle School. Gibbs replaces Tracey Nixon, who was earlier named the school’s principal.
• Unanimously approved a contract for a 10-foot easement on the Ed Tech Center to allow sewer repairs by the City of Washington. The repairs are scheduled to be made during the summer, according to Phipps.
• Unanimously approved the construction of a section of fence at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School.
• Unanimously approved the installation of signs at the Ed Tech Center that will identify the center’s buildings.
• Unanimously approved field trips for Washington High School Gear Up participants to visit N.C. A &T University in Greensboro and Family, Community and Career Leaders of America students from Southside High School to attend a conference in Greensboro.
• Unanimously authorized the school system’s lawyers to determine a settlement agreement for payment between the public school system and area charter schools.
All board members attended the meeting.