Board OKs schedule

Published 1:25 am Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Beaufort County Board of Education Tuesday unanimously approved the public school calendar for the 2012-13 school year but even as did so, the board’s members said they did not like it.
The calendar reflects changes mandated by the state Legislature in a series of votes since 2004. Those changes have lacked the approval of local and state educators.
“I don’t like this one but it’s better than the others that we considered,” said board member Terry Williams. “It’s just not doing our staff or teachers right one more time.”
Board member Mike Isbell agreed.
“It’s appalling,” he said.
Under the calendar approved by the board, teachers will return to the classroom Monday, Aug. 20, with school scheduled to open for students Monday, Aug. 27.
The calendar cuts teacher workdays but includes three early release days that can be used for professional development, according to Superintendent Don Phipps.
Early release days during the 2012-2013 academic year are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 12; Wednesday, Oct. 12; Thursday, Dec. 20; Wednesday, Feb. 27; Friday, March 29, and Monday, June 10.
By law, the North Carolina school year must begin no earlier than Aug. 25 and end no later than June 10, but changes to the school calendar enacted by state lawmakers last year have put the squeeze on the school schedule, forcing the local system to jettison four teacher workdays that Phipps has said were essential to teachers’ professional development.
The old schedule provided a teacher workday at the end of every grading period.
The calendar approved by the school board Tuesday includes only one teacher workday between Jan. 1, 2012 and the end of the school year for students, Phipps said during the meeting.
The state’s public school calendar has received much attention from state legislators in recent years and has been the target of several changes.
Responding to state tourism interests, which pushed for a later school start in an effort to lengthen the summer travel season, the N.C. General Assembly in 2004 approved legislation that set the Aug. 25 start date for schools across North Carolina.
It also eliminated five days from the calendar while keeping teacher salaries intact.
Local education leaders and some state leaders have routinely criticized that change because it forces high-school students to take their final exams after the Christmas break and makes it difficult for college-bound students to more effectively compete for admittance to their preferred schools.
But despite these criticisms, efforts to overturn or amend that legislation almost every year since have been routinely blocked by powerful coastal legislators.
State lawmakers changed the school calendar once again in 2011.
In one of the special provisions in the budget bill, legislators added five instructional days to the public-school calendar and increased the required instructional hours to 1,025, but it did not extend the school year.
As part of the provision lengthening the school year, state legislators gave the State Board of Education the authority to grant waivers if it “finds that it will enhance student performance to do so.”
As it did with most school systems across the state, the state school board granted Beaufort County Schools a waiver for the 2011-2012 school year, but cautioned that it would be less likely to grant such waivers again this year.
The calendar approved by the board leaves little room for changes that may be required after natural disasters such as last year’s Hurricane Irene or days lost due to snow, board members said.
“We’re squeezed very tight,” said board member E.C. Peed.
All board members attended the meeting.
To see the approved Beaufort County Schools calendar for 2012-2013, visit the Beaufort County Schools website,
News Editor Jonathan Clayborne contributed to this report.

The board approved several items on its agenda at its meeting Tuesday. In other action, the board:
•    Voted unanimously to require board approval for any spending that exceeds the amount appropriated for that line item in the school system’s budget. “The board needs to know when there are overages,” said board member Robert Belcher. “The well is not but so deep.” Belcher noted that in two instances — board member travel expenses and the system’s food services operations — spending has already exceeded the amount appropriated in the system’s 2011-2012 fiscal year budget. Board member Terry Williams agreed. “If you’re going to have a budget, you ought to follow it,” Williams said.
•    Voted unanimously to approve a contract with board lawyer Kimberly Edwards. Under terms of the contract, Edwards will be paid $200 per month as a retainer for bond forfeitures and petitions for remission, a retainer of $200 per month for automobile seizure and forfeitures and $125 per hour for additional services and litigation. The board will also reimburse Edwards $75 a month for cellphone use, among other terms of the contract.
•    Voted unanimously to spend up to $525 to remove a dead tree at the edge of the playground at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School.
•    Unanimously approved a three-page personnel agenda that includes naming Stacey Gerard assistant principal at Southside High School succeeding Marquez Jackson at the school effective Jan. 18.
Unanimously approved a field trip request from Southside High School for choral students to participate in an all-state chorus in Greensboro.