The January Yadkin County School Board meeting was in closed session from 8 a.m. - 9 a.m. The open session began with chairman Frank Brown welcoming everyone back from their holiday break and was followed by the traditional pledge of allegiance and an invocation led by board member Larry Vestal. After a moment of silence, Vestal made a point to use this opportunity to tell attendees that prayer in school is not illegal and that children and staff can pray silently in public schools.
The first main topic on the agenda was the status of the 21st Century Systems’ Business/ Finance. Maintenance director Donald Hawks gave an update on the bids for data control wiring and phone systems for review, while bids for TV systems, security systems, etc. were tabled needing further review. Furniture bids were submitted but must be “trimmed” to fit the existing budget, according to Hawks.
He also commented that the weather has slowed down the improvements to the middle schools ,but assured everyone that Starmount appears to be somewhat on schedule and Forbush will be slightly delayed.
Mark Rumley, assistant superintendent, reviewed “Framework for Change,” which is an accountability and curriculum reform effort. One of the top objectives reads: “Over the next five years, we will have curriculum standards, new tests and a new accountability model.”
“We now know that children learn in different ways,” said Rumley.”Why can’t we teach in more diverse ways?”
The Framework for Change report states that tests “will be more real-world; less dependent on bubble sheets; transparent to teachers and the public; and increasingly computer-based, to take advantage of the efficiencies and cost-savings available in this arena. A new accountability model will push schools to perform at higher levels every year and will provide data over time.”
These upcoming improvements in Yadkin County education was well received by the board, given the lower reading test scores in 2006 and 2007. Rumley provided data showing the status of student scores, both district and individual schools, in reading and math. The math data was discussed at the September meeting. The data showing the test scores became a hot topic at the meeting. Chairman Frank Brown was especially concerned.
“I’d like for the board to be given more in-depth information on how Yadkin scores compare to surrounding counties, such as Wilkes and Surry, as well as state averages,” he said. “We need to see some data that has more information to really analyze how our schools are performing.”
Superintendent Jim Benfield assured the board that this information can and will be compiled.
“The current data is being reviewed by principles at the individual schools as it pertains to the students in their respective schools,” he said.
Gary McDonald, assistant superintendent, presented some very welcome news while reviewing the teacher turnover report. He noted that in 2007 - 2008, the state turnover rate was 13.85 percent; the state five-year turnover rate is 12.81 percent, while the national rate is 16.8 percent.
“Last year, Yadkin County’s turnover rate was 8.86 percent. This was the ninth best retention rate in the state,” he said. “And, the county’s five-year turnover rate is 9.41percent, which is the 14th best in the state.
“We feel this is partly due to the results from the recent surveys that show our staff and faculty feel they are in a positive atmosphere while at work,” said McDonald. “Teachers have stated that they feel like they are family.”
McDonald added that Yadkin County schools were used in a statistical analysis comparing the 10 lowest turnover rates in the state to the results of the Teacher Working Conditions Survey completed by the staff. His report showed that there is a direct relationship between the low turnover rate and the positive results from the working conditions survey.
The meeting concluded with comments from various board members with well wishes for the new year. When given the opportunity to make any final comments Larry Vestal was especially upbeat about the teacher retention status in Yadkin County.
“These findings are certainly a good sign of a positive working environment,” he said. “It’s great news to hear this about the faculty in our schools.”