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Originally published: 2012-12-12 10:34:48
Last modified: 2012-12-12 10:34:48

New school board members join ranks

A busy agenda greeted the new Board of Education at its meeting Monday, including the hiring of a new administrator, an analysis of school calendar options and positive news about the Bethel afterschool program.

Newly elected members Ron Henries, Barbara Kinsey and Brenda Reese joined in electing Lee Warren as chairman and Delora Hodges as vice chairwoman at the start of the meeting.

“I do really appreciate the vote of confidence by my fellow board members in nominating me as chair,” Warren said, pledging to be consistent, effective and thorough.


New position filled

The board voted unanimously to approve the hire of J. Chris Devera as the director of technology services for Watauga County Schools.

Devera comes from Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he currently serves as a PACS administrator at Georgetown Memorial Hospital, according to human resources director Stephen Martin.

The new position comes with a $75,000 salary and a two-and-a-half year contract, Martin said.

Devera is expected to start the central office job on or near Jan. 7, 2013, the day students return from winter break, Martin said.


School calendar

The school board typically approves a calendar for the next school year during the December meeting, but possible legislative changes are causing the board to hold off.

Wayne Eberle, the director of accountability and school improvement, presented two options to the board for their review.

One follows a change in the state law enacted this summer and would open schools on Aug. 19, 2013. That calendar would not allow students to finish exams before the winter break.

The second option could only be used if the state amends the law again. That calendar would be more like previous years, with an Aug. 7 start date.

Superintendent David Kafitz noted that local legislators appear sympathetic to the difficulties of starting classes so late in August, given that mountain counties often miss school for winter weather, but that tourism interest groups on the coast have lobbied hard in favor of later start dates.

Eberle also presented the results of a recent parent survey asking families about their preferences. That information will be presented to legislators as they head into the next session in January, when they may consider changing the law.


Bethel afterschool program

Afterschool director Pam Shirley provided an update on the Bethel afterschool program, which was nearly closed in spring after failing to break even financially.

The board voted in June to keep the site open through December and re-evaluate.

Shirley said that enrollment at Bethel had grown to 11 and that the program is currently $852 in the black.

“If we continue to have this many enrolled through the end of the year, we should break even there,” she said.

Shirley and board members praised the community members who encouraged parents to enroll their students and those who offered to raise money for the program if necessary, particularly Floyd Hicks.

Kafitz said that Shirley has been asked to look at a new business model for afterschool programs to be presented in the spring. That model may include expanded hours or other changes.

Shirley also updated the board on the afterschool sites’ SACERS assessment system. Cove Creek, Green Valley, Mabel and Valle Crucis have achieved a five star rating, the highest level, she said. Hardin Park and Parkway are in the midst of their evaluations, and Bethel and Blowing Rock will be evaluated next.


Other business

The board also received information about how the school system plans to fulfill a new requirement that all students complete CPR training before they graduate.

The requirement goes into effect for the class of 2015 and beyond. In the future, eighth-graders will be expected to undergo the training and pass a skills test during their healthful living classes.

The current freshmen and sophomores will be caught up with the requirement through CPR courses to be taught during PE classes.

The board also:

— Recognized Tyler Winkler for his recent success in choral competitions;

— Adopted a routine budget amendment;

— Received an update on facilities and declared several items as surplus;

— Was tasked with finding community members interested in helping develop a five-year strategic plan for the school system.