New student information system introduced at school board meeting
by Whitney Weaver
This month’s Ashe County Board of Education meeting consisted of recognitions, requests, and reinvention of technologies and policies.
Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves and board members Polly Jones, Dr. Lee Beckworth, Charles King, C.B. Jones and Terry Williams were all in attendance as the meeting was called to order on Monday, Nov. 5 in the Ashe County Schools central office annex.
Reeves recognized Alecia Giles as the employee of the month. Giles is a teacher’s assistant at Mountain View Elementary, and was described by a coworker as “enthusiastic and positive when working with kids.” While working as a teacher’s assistant, Giles is pursuing a teacher certification degree.
Sharon Houck was recognized for outstanding work as well, as she was named a Teacher of Excellence for Exceptional Children. Houck has been at Mountain View since 1991 and contributed to the school’s record review from the state department.
Phyllis Yates presented the board with proposed projects for long range planning and facility needs. Among the four requests, three were granted including air conditioning units for cafeterias at Ashe County Middle School as well as Blue Ridge and Mountain View Elementary schools, electronic security locks on outside doors at all schools and electrical upgrades to the vocational classrooms at Ashe County High School.
These proposed improvements will cost a total of $182,500, and will be paid using Ashe County Schools’ share of lottery funds.
The request to replace the gymnasium doors at West Jefferson School was denied because it is not a K-12 institution. Williams said that he would like to discuss the matter further. “It’s not only a safety issue, but potentially a vandalism issue as well,” said Williams.
The board accepted the proposed improvements and agreed that the matter of the gym doors should be taken into consideration.
A great deal of discussion surrounded a change to the student information system that is to be implemented starting next school year. Sandy Rhodes and Travis Bennett gave a presentation on the new PowerSchool information system that will replace NC Wise.
Bennet was confident in the reliability of the system.
“The flexibility (the new system) is going to offer will be amazing,” said Bennett.
He also said the system created student and school portals in addition to administrative, teacher and parent portals, making the system more accessible for different groups of users.
One of the major challenges associated with the change is the limited amount of time to enter data and train teachers. Rhodes said the transition was on a “very aggressive timeline,” making the process happen two months ahead of usual operations.
Reeves said that despite the issues inherent in changing systems, he has heard from other users that using PowerSchool will be a positive experience for teachers, and expressed his appreciation for Rhodes and Bennett for leading the schools through the transition.
Having already missed two school days this year, the school calendar needed adjustment. Reeves said that the calendar had been updated, and that Oct. 30 and 31 would be made up Wednesday, Nov. 21, and Thursday, Dec. 20, respectively.
On a related note, Reeves asked who would develop next year’s school calendar in light of new legislation decisions.
The 2012 Senate Bill 187 (Session Law 2012-145) placed restrictions on the school calendar, requiring that the school year must consist of 185 days or 1025 instructional hours and setting a late-August start date. Due to the number of days missed for inclement weather, Ashe County qualified for a waiver, allowing our schools to start one week earlier than schools that did not qualify. However, even with the waiver, the start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 19.
“This legislature takes away all local control and flexibility. Other school systems can make this work, but in a system like ours, we don’t have the flexibility that larger urban schools have,” said Reeves.
Reeves said that in making the school calendar, the board realizes schools will miss an average of 11 days, and plans early start dates accordingly.
“We start early so that we can finish high school exams before Christmas. Many of our students are dually enrolled in classes at the high school and at Wilkes Community College and it needs to be on the same schedule,” said Reeves.
Faced with these restrictions, Williams volunteered as he said, “Mr. Chairman, I think I can take on that daunting task again, unless someone else wants to.”
Hearing a request from Daniel Calhoun to take the Ashe County High School Future Farmers of America to a dairy judging event in Salisbury, Polly Jones motioned to allow the trip, and the motion was seconded by Williams.
At the competition, two teams of four students each would judge cattle and provide oral reasonings for their decisions. Calhoun said that public speaking was “a strong component” of the competition, allowing students to practice that life skill along with principles learned in class.
Another request was granted to ACHS’s Husky Band to perform in three Thanksgiving parades in Salisbury, Spencer and Charlotte. The parades would allow the band to practice performing in front of an audience and would provide scholarship opportunities for seniors, said band director Carrie Mitchell.
Mitchell estimated the trip would cost around $30 per student and students could use money from their fund-raising account for meals. King complimented Mitchell, saying, “It sounds like you’ve got this pretty well planned.” Williams motioned to allow the trip and was seconded by C.B. Jones.
At the end of the meeting’s open session, several announcements were made including:
• Ashe County ranking fifth in the state for lowest five-year average of system level teacher turnover with 7.08 percent
• Common Core and Essential Standards Training for teachers.
• The start of American Education week Nov. 11-17 during which board members will visit schools.
• Veteran’s Day celebrations at ACHS (2:15 p.m. on Nov. 8) and ACMS (8:30 a.m. on Nov. 9).
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