School policy review to begin
by Kellen Short
Watauga County Schools is preparing to embark on a broad review of all its policies, led by the N.C. School Boards Association.
The Watauga Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to enlist the association's services in bringing local policies up-to-date with state and federal law, at a cost of $12,000.
School officials have recognized that some of the policies may not conform to law, may be missing or may be obsolete, according to a letter from the SBA. Watauga County Schools' policies also do not match the commonly used coding system.
The SBA offered three options in a July 12 letter.
The first was to purchase a $2,000 set of basic model policies to customize on its own. The second provided the same road map with additional support from the School Boards Association to identify which specific policies needed review.
The final option, at a cost of $12,000, will provide the
same offers, along with additional help from an NCSBA attorney to guide the
step-by-step policy conversion process.
The school board chose the third option with the recommendations of board attorney Paul Miller and Dean Shatley, an Asheville attorney who has assisted the board.
Board member Ron Henries said it had become apparent to him in conferences and training that the school system needed to do something to update its outdated policies.
"There are too many things happening too fast in Raleigh," he said.
Henries said he felt it would be best to consult professional rather than tackle the project entirely in-house, saying, "We need their help."
School board policy 1.05 states, "The board shall strive to keep policies up-to-date as the superintendent and the board attorney call attention to policies in need of revision. The superintendent shall provide for an annual updating of all policy manuals."
Watauga County Schools spokesman Marshall Ashcraft said after the meeting that the school system has done a good job making the priority policy changes. The school board considers policy revisions at nearly every monthly meeting, but he said the top-to-bottom review has not been done on a systematic basis.
"It's a constant work in progress to try to keep it current," Ashcraft said. "We think this will be a very good solution to making sure we have the best possible foundation from which to keep it updated moving forward."
One area that will need attention, for example, is the policy dealing with personnel evaluation, which will need to change following new state rules on teacher evaluation, he said.
Ashcraft said he was not sure how long the policy review process would take, but that the school system could still address any necessary policy changes while the NCSBA review is ongoing.
Interim Superintendent David Fonseca said funding for the policy review had been budgeted in case the board decided to pursue it.
"It's money well-invested," he said.