Outgoing school board members praised
by Kellen Moore
Superintendent David Kafitz recognized John Welch, Steve Combs and Deborah Miller, whose seats will be filled by new representatives after the election this week. Those elected will join the board in early December.
Kafitz commended Welch for his youthful innovation, Combs for his honesty and outspokenness and Miller for being a constant sounding board.
“The three of them didn’t really want any special attention paid to their outgoing service, but we cannot let them sneak out of here,” Kafitz said.
Welch, who was elected in 2010, was joined Monday by his wife, Christy Welch, a Mabel school counselor, and his daughter, Madison.
“I really have to thank my family, because it’s a lot of long hours, a lot of meals left in the microwave,” Welch said. “So I really appreciate everything that they’ve done for me.”
Combs, a former vice chairman of the board, has served for the last 12 years. He said that each decision he made was prayed over heavily and that he served for so long only with the help of his wife and daughters.
“I wouldn’t want to serve on any other school board than this one in Watauga County,” Combs said.
Kafitz described Miller, the current chairwoman of the board, as a person of character and leadership whose shoes would not be filled easily.
“You’re welcome to run again,” Kafitz said with a laugh. “We could even start a write-in campaign tomorrow.”
Miller said she has found that each school in the system stands up for education and for the children they serve and comes together in times of need.
“Eight years ago, I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this family,” she said.
Vice Chairman Lee Warren and board member Delora Hodges also commended the three outgoing members for their dedication and enthusiasm.
ASC Center update
The board also spent much of Monday’s meeting receiving an update on the Assessment, Support and Counseling Center at Watauga High School. The center, a partnership with Appalachian State University now in its seventh year, is meant to help students dealing with emotional issues so they can better perform academically.
Free counseling sessions are provided by ASU graduate students in related fields to assist students with a variety of problems.
According to coordinator Kurt Michael, 64 students were served in the 2011-12 school year. Six out of 10 were female, and the average age of students served was 16.5 years old.
Overall, 73 percent of students served by the ASC Center charted improved attendance, 73 percent experienced fewer disciplinary incidents and 54 percent saw increased academic performance.
The board also:
— Heard from Rebecca Hayes, who spoke on behalf of Club Synergy, a volleyball program that uses the school gyms to practice. She thanked the school board for opening its doors to such teams.
— Approved the continued move toward SAS Education Cloud, a statewide pilot program that will replace traditional computer servers with an online platform. The school system expects to save about $13,000 a year if selected for the pilot program.
— Approved one field trip request and a list of personnel status changes.
— Received an update on school facilities and a breakdown of schools that will receive bonuses for reducing energy consumption.
— Received a report on a recent child nutrition site visit at Watauga High School from the Department of Public Instruction. The visit showed high levels of school lunch purchases and one violation stemming from rules that prohibit competition in school lunchrooms. Because a drink machine was turned on and available during the day, the school received a violation.
— Approved the second reading of minor changes to the conflict of interest policy.
— Agreed to move to an eBoard system, an online document management system intended to make school board meetings paperless and more accessible and transparent to the public. The system will cost about $12,500 a year.
— Discussed the N.C. School Boards Association agenda for the annual conference next week. Among the things the NCSBA will consider addressing legislatively is the possible end of teacher career status, or teacher tenure. Alan Felker, a representative for the Watauga County and N.C. Association of Educators, expressed those groups’ desire to keep career status and due process rights.