The Ashe County Board of Education heard the results of its financial audit Monday night, voted to sign the Resolution to Rescind Sequestration, and discussed an agreement with Blue Ridge Energy to convert school buses to run on propane.
Mike Wike of Anderson, Smith and Wike certified public accountants, presented the findings of the BOE’s recent audit. Wike said he and his associates gave the board an "unqualified report," meaning a clean audit, and "the highest bill of assurance."
A key focus of the audit was clusters of federal and state education funding sources, each of which have different compliance requirements — a potential accounting minefield. Wike reported no material misstatements or instances of noncompliance.
Board member Terry Williams commended "all involved for an excellent report."
Chair Charles L. King opened discussion of the Resolution to Rescind Sequestration — the imposing of across-the-board cuts in education and other domestic programs by the federal government.
The resolution is a nationwide "call to action" by the National School Boards Association to restrain $1.2 trillion in budget cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011. The cuts would reduce federal education funding by 8.2 percent, a loss of $93 million to N.C. school districts.
The NSBA is expected to make its case to Congress in January, Yates said.
Board member C. B. Jones asked the board’s opinion on signing the resolution immediately."We need to work on this pretty quick," he said.
The Resolution to Rescind Sequestration was unanimously approved by the board, and will be sent to the NSBA and N.C.’s representatives in Washington.
Details of a Propane Services Agreement between Blue Ridge Energy and the BOE were discussed. BRE’s proposal to the BOE in October offered reduced emissions and operating costs, with no cost for conversion kits and no financial risk to the board.
Assistant Superintendent Phyllis Yates said BRE attorneys are working on the agreement.
Yates said that any conversion of the bus fleet to propane would start tentatively with a single activity bus.
The question of liability for operating modified school buses was raised by board member Dr. Lee Beckworth. "There might be a limit to what you can do to a bus and put kids in it," he said.
The issue was tabled until January’s meeting.
Ashe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Travis L. Reeves addressed the assembly regarding his recently announced resignation.
Reeves expressed his gratitude to the board for the opportunity to work in Ashe County. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said.
Reeves will be leaving Ashe County to serve as superintendent of Surry County starting in January. His tenure in Ashe County has seen improved student achievement scores and higher graduation rates.
Jones said of Reeve’s departure. "We want to thank Dr. Reeves for his service," he said. "We hate to give him up."
A slide presentation entitled Art Across the Curriculum was given by art teachers Jorena Sparks, Lindsey Postlethwait and Olivia Snider. They described teaching strategies that give fresh relevance to English, mathematics and social studies by bringing important concepts from those subjects into student’s art projects.
Reeves recognized Ashe County School’s December Employee of the Month, Janet Miller, a teacher assistant at Mountain View Elementary, and read two glowing letters of recommendation.
Receiving her award, Miller thanked the board for "being so diligent in keeping our jobs" in the face of budget cuts.