Beyond book controversy, school board takes other actions

Empty desks

Calendars for upcoming school years set

CARTHAGE – The Moore County Board of Education met Monday to address community concerns over the book “George” and to vote on calendar changes and funding.

The debate over “George” has been an ongoing national topic that has found itself in Moore County. The county has ultimately decided to keep the book in the schools that it was already in by a final vote of 4-3.

The book was in two county school libraries – Union Pines High School and McDeeds Creek Elementary – and had found itself in those libraries’ collections from bulk book purchases. “George” had been checked out of Moore County Schools libraries only twice since it was acquired.

The Board of Education was briefed on the new LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) program that is going to be required training for K-5 educators in North Carolina schools due to State Senate Bill 387.

The program, which has already been implemented and seen success in Mississippi, gives teachers a new, scientific approach to the teaching of reading and literacy.

“LETRS addresses four critical outcomes for effective literacy instruction,” said Assistant Director for Curriculum and Instruction Elizabeth Madyun. “This includes the understanding of the science of reading, converting research to practice, enhancing teacher effectiveness and transforming instruction.”

The Board also approved the calendars for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years with the most notable change being that half-days will primarily be on Fridays rather than Wednesdays.

“In reading through all of the comments that parents made on the calendar, [moving half-days to Fridays] was probably the number one thing that they mentioned,” Vice Chair Carter said. “It is difficult to take off from work and keep your own child on a Wednesday afternoon where it is not as difficult on a Friday afternoon.”

The Board was supposed to potentially approve a service agreement for the modernization of three school gymnasiums – Cameron, Highfalls and Westmoore Elementary – but after concerns were raised by Board member David Hensley, the board tabled the discussion till the next work session.

The concerns Hensley brought up were that John Birath, the Moore County Schools Executive Officer for Operations, had a potential conflict of interest in choosing a firm to take on the gymnasium renovation projects as the one that had been chosen, SfL+a Architects, happened to be a firm that Barith had previously worked for. In addition, Firstfloor Builders, which shares a CEO with SfL+a, is under criminal investigation for fraud in Horry County, South Carolina.

Along with tabling the discussion, the board also decided to elect both Hensley and Board member Stacey Caldwell to the review committee to supervise the process of choosing a firm.

“What this will do is protect the reputation of Mr. John Birath against allegations, it will protect Moore County Schools against allegations and it will protect this body against allegations,” Hensley said. “If we continue forward, those allegations are going to linger and it will forever affect the reputation of Mr. Birath, this body and Moore County Schools.”

Finally, the board approved the use of FCC Emergency Connectivity Funds to support the refresh of 1,000 iPads to replace the outdated and no longer supported models used in the instructions of K-1 students and approved bids for the construction of outdoor tables and canopies and water bottle filling stations.

The Moore County Board of Education will next meet on April 11.


By Ryan Henkel

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