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Originally published: 2013-02-12 10:02:28
Last modified: 2013-02-13 15:37:53

UPDATE: School board objects to Kinsey survey

An otherwise routine Board of Education meeting went on a tangent Monday when the board objected to a faculty survey prepared by board member Barbara Kinsey.

Kinsey said she distributed the questionnaire at a faculty meeting at Valle Crucis Elementary on Feb. 5. She said she couldn't immediately locate a copy of the questions but said they were general queries about teacher morale and their current concerns.

A copy of the survey provided Wednesday listed three questions: 1) What is your greatest concern, cause of anger, stress, etc. in Watauga County Schools (and your school specifically) at this moment? 2) What do you fear the most about your position in Watauga schools? 3) What anxieties do you have about the curriculum and materials which you are teaching?

"My only concern was letting teachers have a voice, having teachers have a way to speak their concerns," Kinsey said.

She said she was careful to include her home phone, cell phone and personal email address on the sheet, rather than her school board contact information.

"We did make it clear that it was my thing, not a board issue," Kinsey said.

Those steps apparently weren't enough for the rest of the board to feel comfortable.

Toward the end of Monday’s meeting, board member Ron Henries moved that an email be sent to all employees on behalf of the board stating that the survey was not authorized by the board and recommending that employees not complete it.

"Ms. Kinsey cannot legally promise that responses will be for her eyes only," Henries noted in his motion.

Henries, board member Brenda Reese and Chairman Lee Warren voted for the motion, while Kinsey abstained. Vice Chairwoman Delora Hodges was out of town due to a death in the family.

"If there's a survey sent out, we would like to send it out as a board," Henries said after the meeting adjourned.

Kinsey said she was notified just before the 7 p.m. meeting that Henries planned to make the motion. She said the board received a letter Monday from Asheville attorney Chris Campbell, who recently has been advising the board, discouraging completion of the survey.

Kinsey said the questions were merely part of a "cheerleading session" meant to encourage teachers and ensure that their voices were heard about all parts of the educational process.

She said she still intends to visit the other schools, but added: "I will not take my survey. I have another means of communication."

Saturday school possible

Saturday school is still a possibility if Watauga County Schools continues to miss days due to winter weather, Superintendent David Kafitz warned Monday.

As of Monday, schools have closed eight days due to winter weather and also have had four, two-hour delays, he said. One early dismissal also occurred.

The calendar still includes five days at the end of the year that will be used first, taking the students’ last day to June 10, he said.

“There will be some consideration of Saturday school if we use more of those five remaining days,” Kafitz said.

Kafitz said his intention was to use Saturday school to try to avoid interrupting the scheduled spring break. If school is held on Saturday, it will be a half-day and will occur in the same week in which a school day is missed.


Facilities issues

The board received a lengthy report on school facilities Monday from Maintenance Director Dennis Ray.

Ray said the Jan. 30 storm created flooding at Blowing Rock, Hardin Park and Watauga High, mostly in the “traditional places.” Ray said the elementary school flooding problems were due to the grading and landscaping there that causes water to flow toward the building.

Hardin Park experienced roof leaks in 17 places, but a crew is expected to make the repairs as soon as possible under warranty, he said.

Parkway School experienced 13 roof leaks. Ray said his department could make repairs to “buy a couple years” but that the Parkway roof should be pulled sooner in the facilities renovation plan.

At Watauga High School, the most serious roof leak occurred over the stage in the auditorium, and Ray said neither the roofing company nor the smoke vent installer would take blame for the issues.

“We were going to find some places that were going to leak,” he said of the overall damage. “It was just an overwhelming rain.”

Ray also presented two options for repairs to cracking support beams in the Valle Crucis basement. The problems were temporarily fixed in August, allowing two displaced classrooms to reopen, but Ray said a permanent solution was needed.

The first plan would replace rotting timbers with new ones at a cost of about $97,400 with a two-month timeline. The second plan would fill the basement with gravel and concrete at a cost of about $374,400 and a three-month repair time.

Ray recommended the first plan, along with an additional outlay to repair roof decking and shingles damaged when the building settled, taking the total cost to about $201,000.

Ray said he hopes the board will include this project as a priority when speaking with county commissioners next week about the local budget.

The maintenance staff is also working to reduce the non-harmful, high iron content in the Valle Crucis water that is causing the water to appear murky, he said.


Testing changes

Human Resources Director Stephen Martin and Testing Coordinator Wayne Eberle also provided detailed information about the new school accountability model and new standardized tests.

Martin said the former system that recognized “Schools of Distinction,” “Schools of Excellence” and the like will be replaced with performance composites.

“We could talk about this a long time, because these are major changes,” Martin said.

The school system also will begin using “Measures of Student Learning,” or MSLs, in certain classes that do not have End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests, Eberle explained.

The 90-minute tests won’t be as strictly proctored as EOGs or EOCs and won’t be used as part of school accountability measures. Instead, they will serve as part of the teacher evaluation process in an attempt to determine how well the teacher has contributed to students’ academic success.


School districting info now online

Transportation Director Jeff Lyons unveiled Monday a new online system called Edulog WebQuery that provides a searchable database to determine in which school district a particular address is located.

The system should be beneficial for families considering moving to the area and for realtors, he said. The school system typically gets many calls from people trying to determine where their child will attend school, he said.

The program is available by visiting Hover over “Parent Links,” then click on “Forms, Menus & Other WCS Information.” Click on the third link titled “Attendance Area and Bus Route Information.”

The program has an initial cost of $4,225 and a licensing fee of about $500 per year, Lyons said.


Other business

At its meeting Monday, the board also:

— Recognized Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation for the completion of a $25,000 donation and recognized Stephanie Long Kostis as an Outstanding Secondary Mathematics Teacher.

— Approved field trip requests and personnel changes and received a memorandum of understanding for arts education programs provided by ASU’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs.

— Postponed discussion of a school system audit report until the auditor could be present.

— Voted 4-0 for a resolution opposing possible state legislation that could move control of school building placement, design and maintenance from the school systems to county commissioners.

— Met briefly in closed session, taking no action afterward.