School board approves 'Wallace Field'
by Kellen Moore
After brief discussion Monday, the Watauga County Board of Education voted unanimously to name the Watauga High School lacrosse field “Wallace Field” in honor of teacher and coach Leigh Wallace.
Wallace, 43, died unexpectedly last month after a bout with pneumonia. She was the first and only women’s lacrosse coach to serve since the team moved from a club sport to an official NCHSAA-sanctioned sport.
“You cannot think of Leigh Wallace and not think of Watauga High School,” said Principal Marshall Gasperson, who made the nomination.
Several board members agreed that Wallace’s contributions to the school and its students had been notable.
“I can’t imagine that we would name that field after anybody else,” board member Ron Henries said.
The board discussed whether it would be necessary to waive its policy on naming school facilities, an action that typically requires a monetary donation. Board Chairman Lee Warren wondered briefly whether waiving the fee would set a dangerous precedent for future facility name nominations.
Board Attorney Paul Miller said he interpreted the policy to mean that the board could name a facility based on various types of significant contributions, whether monetary or not.
Gasperson said the school will raise money for the facility sign, and a proposed design will be brought back to the board in the future.
Kinsey speaks out
Board member Barbara Kinsey, elected in November, took an unusual opportunity Monday to address the audience on “rumors” she heard through the course of the election.
Kinsey said her statements were intended to address perceived problems in the school system and promote transparency.
“We hear you, and we want to bring resolution to these concerns,” she said.
Kinsey said she had heard statements about:
• Teachers not wanting to state concerns out of fear for losing their jobs.
• Educators being told that all elementary schools should be on the same lessons the same day to create a more unified system.
• Administrators being urged to minimize the individual cultures of each school.
• iPads and other technology being introduced too quickly without enough infrastructure.
• Educators feeling as though they were being “spoken down to” by administrators.
Kinsey said the Watauga County Schools system has always operated with collaboration: Teachers and administrators working together for the good of the students.
“The old top-down, military model of education disappeared several decades ago, and with its disappearance came the understanding that everyone … must be working side-by-side,” Kinsey said.
Other board members did not make any statements after Kinsey’s statements.
The board also received a presentation Monday from Shelly
Robinson, interim director of The Mountain Alliance.
Robinson explained the goals and successes of the organization in a plea to restore funding to the group, which was cut from the WCS budget in 2011.
Founded as a nonprofit in 1990, the program offers free outdoor adventures and service opportunities for high school students. Open to anyone, it particularly seeks out students who aren’t involved in other school activities and works to prevent student dropouts.
In 2011-12, Mountain Alliance reached more than 150 students and performed 1,400 hours of community service.
Robinson said that of the student participants polled in a recent survey:
• 31 percent had failed a course
• 45 percent receive free or reduced lunch
• 48 percent don’t live with both biological parents
• 33 percent say they dislike school
“Our students have a lot of challenges that they’re facing on a daily basis,” Robinson said.
The board also:
• Approved field trip requests, board member committee assignments, a school-based mental health partnership contract and a contract with the Boone Roundball Classic tournament for use of eight school gyms.
• Agreed to spend $18,000 on a study of six elementary schools by architect Randy Jones. The study is intended to help the facilities staff evaluate and rank the building needs in order to create a new 10-year facilities plan. The study will likely be complete by May, said maintenance director Dennis Ray.
• Approved an agreement for Frontier Natural Gas to cross the high school property with a gas line.
• Approved a 2013-14 school calendar. The calendar may change once more if legislators reconsider a change made last year that requires schools to start no earlier than Aug. 19.
• Proposed a work session to discuss several upcoming matters. A date was not settled on for the session.