LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Education approved a dramatic remodeling of Scotland High School’s career and technical education program on Monday night, with a memorandum of agreement with Richmond Community College for that institution to take over instruction for the bulk of the high school’s vocational and technical classes.
In the upcoming school year, Scotland High will go from offering one on-campus, college credit earning course — welding — to 25, in fields including accounting, business administration, information technology, and mechanical and electronics engineering.
“The benefits of that program were that students were able to take a college course on the high school campus in one class period, earning two college credits tuition-free,” said system CTE director Camille Goins.
Scotland High’s CTE program has grown from 20 students in 2009-2010 to 140 in 2013-2014. For the upcoming year, 250 students are pre-registered for CTE courses, with some 500 ultimately expected to enroll.
Courses will be taught in the high school’s “high-tech” facilities, such as its drafting lab and computer engineering and welding facilities, by RCC faculty during the school day.
“I think it gives your students an opportunity not only to get credentials they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get at no cost, but allows us to break down silos so that we can leverage all of our resources in a way that makes sense, and I think at the end of the day everybody will benefit,” said RCC President Dale McInnis.
Textbooks for the courses will be funded by the CTE program, with RCC waiving tuition for high school students. The community college will be reimbursed by the state for those students as it would for learners on its Hamlet campus.
“I think it’s a very sustainable program, especially the way it’s been mapped out over the next three years,” McInnis said. “I think that we’re actually saving resources because we’ll be eliminating what would be redundant teaching. In many cases, we’re teaching what had been taught by both and now will only be taught by one.”
The board also heard from Rachel Burris, the school system’s elementary education director, on the system-wide plan to identify and serve academically gifted students.
At the elementary level, AIG students will be taught in general classes with students of all learning levels. That instruction will be supplemented by focus groups including talented students, both AIG-identified and not.
“The idea behind that model is that more students will be exposed to that level of rigor, more students will have an opportunity for that differentiated curriculum, and they may be able to grow further as students,” said Burris.
At the middle school level, the magnet program at Spring Hill Middle School, where AIG students are grouped and taught in all core subject areas by AIG-certified teachers, will continue to enroll the bulk of the district’s AIG students. Burris projected that 148 AIG students will enroll at Spring Hill in the upcoming year to be taught by its six AIG teachers.
Sycamore Lane Middle School will have two AIG certified teachers to serve 26 students and Carver Middle will have one AIG teacher to 43 students.
Board member Jeff Byrd questioned if it is realistic to expect teachers to appropriately challenge gifted students in a classroom with children of all learning levels.
“One of my concerns is that, as cuts are made and classroom sizes are getting bigger, it’s going to be hard for a teacher who no longer has the help they once had and bigger classrooms, to have differentiation take place because they don’t have the time or the resources to do so,” he said.
The number of AIG students expected at the county’s elementary schools varies from less than 10 at North Laurinburg, I.Ellis Johnson, and Pate-Gardner to 30 at Laurel Hill and 36 at South Scotland.
“It’s much harder, but that is the expectation that we have of our teachers, and I think at central office we try to do everything we can to provide the services and support to them and the resources to make it as easy as possible,” said Burris.
Board member Paul Rush suggested the use of virtual instruction for those AIG students in schools with few other AIG students.
Also on Monday, board attorney Nick Sojka brought the board up to date on legislation requiring the school system to offer four-year contracts in lieu of tenure to the top quarter of its teaching staff. A Superior Court judge last week declared that law unconstitutional, and issued an injunction against North Carolina’s schools implementing the plan. The N.C. School Boards Association, Sojka said, is working to formulate alternatives.
“They are looking to see something perhaps very different come out when the House introduces its proposed budget maybe next week,” he said.
In other business, the board scheduled a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. on June 30 as requested by Finance Officer Jay Toland, in order to close the current year’s budget. Toland also briefed the board on the most salient points of 2014-2015 budgets introduced in the state Senate and by Gov. Pat McCrory.
Both budgets include significant raises for school staff, the governor’s more so for non-certified employees and the Senate’s dramatically increasing raises for teachers after their third year in the classroom. Toland said that those raises will be supportable due to slower-than-expected enrollment growth statewide, as well as experienced teachers — who command higher salaries — leaving the state.
Both budgets reinstate a level of funding for master’s level pay while cutting funding for teacher assistants. The governor’s budget would result in $75,000 in cuts to Scotland County teacher assistants while also reducing first and second grade class sizes. However, the Senate’s budget would cut the county’s teacher assistant funding by nearly half, or $890,000.
As Toland alerted the board, the district’s collections of fines and forfeitures levied in Scotland County courts are coming in under budget. The school system has received $193,342 so far of $275,000 budgeted. At this point last year, fines and forfeitures had netter the district $249,661. As a result, the system will likely delay the planned purchase of an activity bus.
Prior to the business portion of Monday’s meeting, the board called for a moment of silence to acknowledge the death of Scotland High School Athletic Director Tommy Britt last month.
“We lost a huge portion of our athletic program at Scotland High School and we’ll have a hard time filling those shoes,” said board member Jamie Sutherland.