School board adopts plan for students who fail reading test

Feb. 19, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

 Lee County third graders who fail the state's new reading test — which more than half failed last year — won't necessarily have to go to remedial summer reading camps, the Lee County Board of Education declared Tuesday.

The board voted unanimously to adopt other tests that third graders who fail the end-of-grade test can take to avoid going to summer school. If students fail those tests, they can take a separate state-mandated test. And if they fail that test, they will have to go to summer school.

Carol Chappell, who spoke about the tests Tuesday and is the school district's director of K-5 instruction, said an optimistic yet attainable goal for Lee County Schools would be to have 20-25 percent of third graders attend the summer camps.

Only third graders have state-mandated summer school.

At the start of Tuesday's meeting, five people signed up to give public remarks related to a recent spat between the school board and the Lee County Board of Commissioners, which publicly reprimanded the school board for joining a lawsuit against the state asking for private school vouchers funded by tax dollars to be declared unconstitutional.

Emily Harris, Jay Calendine, Ann McCracken, Linda Turbeville and Richard Hayes all stood up to say the school board had their support.

Harris, a writer who spoke while holding her elementary school-aged son, said she was "appalled" by the commissioners' actions.

Calendine encouraged the school board, saying, "The shame is not yours; it is theirs."

McCracken, head of the local Democratic Party, said that after watching another public servant be bullied by certain commissioners at that group's meeting on Monday, she feels for the school board and others who deal with the county government.

Turbeville, who is heavily involved in the Democratic Party and is married to Sanford City Councilman Sam Gaskins, said she and other responsible taxpayers expect children to be taught in a regulated system by certified teachers, neither of which private schools are required to provide.

Hayes, a former Lee County Commissioner who is currently running for the school board as a Democrat, told the board to remain dedicated despite the fact that "partisan politics is attempting to place upon you the heavy yoke of ideologues."

Despite the pre-meeting comments from the speakers about the voucher lawsuit, which was recently allowed to continue in court, Superintendent Andy Bryan said later in the meeting that the most talked-about school issue is actually the hot topic of makeup days for last week's snow storm.

The district still has not decided, Bryan said, urging patience until an announcement early next week.

"We are going to take every measure we can to avoid taking days off spring break or using Saturdays," he said.

Elsewhere in the area, Harnett County Schools also has not made an announcement for last week's missed days.

In Moore County, the decision has not been finalized by the school board, although officials said they're leaning toward using March 17, which had been a teacher workday, and June 6, which is after school had been scheduled to get out.

Chatham County has approved March 7, April 11, April 21 and June 11 as makeup days. School will also be extended for elementary and middle school students by 15 minutes every day starting on March 1, according to a press release from Chatham County Schools.

Also Tuesday night, the board:

* Approved the consent agenda, which included 15 new high school classes for next year, including the curriculum for an academy-style program on finance; a debate class; a semester-long introduction to band class for students who want to join band but have little to no experience; new remedial or lower-level English and math courses; ESL2 for students with further difficulty mastering English; and a class focusing on the business side of the fashion industry.

* Recognized SanLee Middle School as the Clean School of the Month.

* Recognized spokeswoman Sharon Spence for the weekly digital magazine she creates, which won an award from a statewide public school communications group.

* Recognized the transportation department, led by Reid Cagle, for scoring significantly higher than the state and area average on a recent audit of school buses.

* Honored students from around the district who placed well at a recent statewide Young Authors competition, and heard passages written by several Deep River Elementary School students who did well in the competition.

* Approved a second reading of new school policies but tabled one policy on students transferring.

* Recognized the nutrition department for performing well on a recent audit.

* Heard a presentation from Warren Williams Alternative Elementary School students on the solar system, and from some of the school's pre-K students.