Graduation ceremonies to remain unchanged

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ceremonies recognizing graduates at the Beaufort County’s three high schools will remain unchanged following action Tuesday by the Beaufort County Board of Education.
After hearing from two of the county’s high-school principals, the board voted 5-3 to keep its current policy, which allows only school personnel and award recipients to speak at ceremonies recognizing award recipients at the county’s public schools.
Board members Eltha S. Booth, E.C. Peed and Terry Williams cast dissenting votes.
School principals and most public-school leaders say the policy is needed in order to ensure that no inappropriate remarks are made during the events and shorten the sometimes lengthy program.
In past years, those sponsoring awards for graduating students were allowed to make a few remarks about the award and the student receiving it. But remarks that some considered inappropriate by a speaker at one ceremony led school officials to institute a policy that allowed only school officials to give remarks.
Under the existing policy, award sponsors are allowed on stage and to greet the student receiving an award, but they are not allowed to speak.
Charles Clark, principal at Northside High School, and Rick Anderson, principal at Southside High School, attended the meeting and expressed support for the existing policy.
Clark said some community members had voiced opposition to the policy, but a recent ceremony that allowed only school personnel as speakers had gone well.
Chairman F. Mac Hodges said he wanted to ensure that “every child was appropriately recognized” despite the policy and efforts by school officials to shorten the ceremony.
In other business, the board:
• Appointed a new assistant principal at one of the county’s schools. Bridget Bilbro, exceptional children’s specialist with the Beaufort County Schools, was appointed assistant principal at Eastern Elementary School, succeeding Debra Windley. The appointment was part of an eight-page personnel agenda approved unanimously by the board. Other appointments are in the process of being made at this time, the board was told.
• Voted unanimously to authorize work to begin on a project to soundproof the gymnasium at Northeast Elementary School. The project was included in the school district’s construction budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year at an estimated cost of $35,254, but its cost is now expected to be $35,728, the board was told.
• Voted unanimously to approve policies related to curriculum and academics and community and school relations. The new policies reflect changes by the N.C. General Assembly and are part of a review of all school policies, the board was told.
• Voted unanimously to approve a policy related to school-bus operations. Under the new policy, all classified employees except those based in the central office are required to be licensed and willing to drive a school bus as a substitute, including the requirement that they be willing to drive at another school within the same high-school attendance area.
Board member Cindy Winstead did not attend the meeting. It was reported that she was out of town.