EDUCATION: Board sees night of change

Jun. 12, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

It was a night of change as the Lee County Board of Education bid farewell to Superintendent Jeff Moss, approved new plans for its gifted and career/technical programs, and changed one of the four members it appoints to the board of trustees for Central Carolina Community College.

Ophelia Livingstone's term on the CCCC board will expire at the end of this month; she applied for re-appointment and there were several other applicants. After interviews, the board's selection committee — Linda Smith and Cameron Sharpe — could not come to a consensus, with Smith in favor of re-appointing Livingston and Sharpe favoring local attorney Norman "Chip" Post Jr.

The school board approved Post in a 5-2 vote, although no one spoke in his favor or against Livingstone. Smith and John Bonardi, who were the two dissenters, both spoke out in favor of Livingstone.

As for Moss, his last Lee County Board of Education meeting went pleasantly, as Jim Simeon of the Sandhills Regional Education Consortium came to award him with a plaque naming him Superintendent of the Year in the Sandhills region. Simeon said Moss's fellow superintendents selected him unanimously for the award, which Moss won twice in his five-year Lee County career.

"They were very quick to (praise) Dr. Moss in his efforts in STEM, in technology … and many of them said they called on him for advice," Simeon said. "They called on him for leadership."

Moss later took a moment to thank the board, his central office staff, teachers and principals, and the community at large for giving him what he called an unexpectedly great time in Lee County.

"This has been the best four and a half years of my career," he said, adding that moving away to take the same position in Beaufort County, S.C., was the hardest decision he ever made.

Dr. Lynn Smith, chairman of the school board, said he remembers he and Sharpe quizzing Moss five years ago, when he was a finalist, about what he would do for the county's graduation rate and achievement gap.

"He has raised expectations beyond my expectations," Smith said, adding that he felt pride recently when watching President Barack Obama speak about the importance of technology in education at a school whose district Smith said was less technologically advanced than Lee County.

"We are in advance of the president’s expectations … and we have Dr. Moss's leadership in taking us to this point," Smith said.

Moss also praised the custodians and bus drivers at every school, saying they treat children like their own family members. Last week, the Lee County Board of Commissioners met with Moss, Lynn Smith and others to talk funding for next year, and several commissioners suggested the schools cut or outsource their custodial staff, which school officials have been, and said then they still are, reluctant to do.

Tuesday night, the school board unanimously passed a resolution against Senate Bill 236, which would give county commissioners in a small group of counties — including Lee, thanks to an addition from Sen. Ronald Rabin, a co-sponsor of the bill — control over whatever they want to pick from a list of items related to facilities and maintenance. Moss said the commissioners could use the bill to take over custodial services as well as various other facility-related issues.

Board member Tamara Brogan, who met with Rabin individually and also spoke at a Senate committee meeting, lobbying for Lee County to be removed from the bill to no avail, was the force behind the resolution. Tuesday, she said she was insulted by the implication that the district, and specifically the school board, can't handle school facilities, adding that that's part of what they were elected to do and that if the county takes control, quality could suffer.

Bonardi, chairman of the board's Facilities and Technology committee, said the district completed its last two projects ahead of schedule and $2 million under budget, so he's unsure why the board is seemingly being punished. He also gave the example of the recent creation of SanLee Middle School, saying he met with the contractors and with teachers, administrators and department heads to make sure everything was tailored to their educational needs and goals.

"These are questions I don't see county commissioners even beginning to consider," he said.

Fellow board member Mark Akinosho also went on a long tirade against the bill.

"I know Mr. Rabin doesn't live in this county; did anyone on this board call Mr. Rabin to request this?" he asked, and was met with silence except for Sharpe saying it wasn't him. Akinosho went on to add: "Just because you have the ability and the power to do it, doesn’t mean you do it. You have to have the restraint. ... I know I will catch flack around the community, but I say this to bring a point home."

The board also:

* Approved 21 policy changes up for a second reading.

* Approved its 2013-14 calendar of events

* Approved a resolution authorizing the district to sell a house — built by Lee County High School students for an auction that ultimately received no bids — for the best possible price in whichever manner officials see fit.

* Approved the consent agenda, including about $90,000 in construction expenses, $60,000 in revenue from the auction sale of a house built by students at Southern Lee High School, an application for federal funding for English as a second language programs, and plans for gifted and career and technical programs.

* Learned that the Lee County commissioners recently requested a large amount of financial data, some of which hasn't yet been set by them, the state or the federal government, for next year and the previous year. Moss and Lynn Smith both said they were confused as to why the commissioners didn't request the information during last week's two-hour budget meeting.

* Honored the Floyd L. Knight custodial team for winning the Clean School of the Month award.