Board of Education approves hiring of two virtual teachers at Crain’s Creek

School uniform survey to be distributed to parents and guardians

ABERDEEN — The Moore County Schools Board of Education met Monday, September 11, with various policy and contract discussions on the agenda.

The board first approved the second reading of revisions to 15 new policies that had already previously been approved.

“Most of them are essentially dictated by the state school board association, which tells us about the new laws, and we revised our policies to be consistent with those,” said Board Chair Robert Levy. “Although we do look at our policies. We don’t just blindly rubber stamp these from the state school board association.”

There were two policies that some board members had objections to, those being Policy 5525 – Reading Requirements for Promotions, which adds in a requirement for students to complete two book reports per semester and was opposed by board members David Hensley and Stacey Caldwell and Policy 6401 H. Rules of Conduct – Rule 1.2: Dress Code, which makes MCS existing dress code stricter which was opposed by just Caldwell.

The rest of the policy changes received unanimous approval following some slight text modifications.

The board then approved the purchase of the iReady Teacher Toolbox for Schools.

“iReady has our diagnostic platform and has our myPath, which is an electronic platform that differentiates for students,” said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Donna Gephart. “In addition to myPath, there is an entire set of tools that are printable materials that our teachers can utilize to ensure that we are differentiating and focusing on the on-grade level standard and the skills within that. What it helps our teachers with is intervention and remediation for our kids while also providing our teachers with another set of tools to work with students and give them different learning experiences.”

Select schools have been using the iReady Teacher Toolbox that they had purchased through their available instructional money already, but now the district will be paying for every school, which is a total cost of $139,506.60 through Title IV grant funding.

The board was then presented with a contract to hire two virtual math teachers for Crain’s Creek Middle School through Fullmind Virtual Teachers.

“This is probably not a recommendation I’d make five years ago, but it is one based on our current staffing needs, needing to be creative and needing to think outside the box in how we’re supporting situations where we have high needs,” said Superintendent Tim Locklair. “This is a company that provides virtual teachers that are synchronous instructors, which means they are live in the classrooms. The reason we recommend this vendor over others is the live instructors. They will use our district standards and curriculum, they participate in professional development, staff meetings, professional learning team meetings and they can also communicate with parents.”

The total cost for two teachers will be $138,843, and in addition to the virtual teachers, the contract also states that two teacher assistants will be hired, at a cost of $87,000, who will be in-person and essentially serve as classroom supervisors.

The contracts can also be voided, with a 30-day notice, if the positions are filled by an in-person hire.

However, not all board members were in favor of the proposal.

“We’ve gotta protect our teachers,” Hensley said. “Once we start down the slippery slope of having virtual teachers, we could just outsource all of our teaching jobs to India because there are a whole lot of people in India who will go through the North Carolina teacher certification process and work from India for very low wages as a virtual teacher. I see this as an extraordinarily dangerous, slippery slope towards outsourcing teachers.”

While the board was overall not necessarily in favor of the idea, most recognized this as a necessary evil.

“We have to be innovative and creative right now because there are no teachers,” Caldwell said. “I personally, and I know many parents, would rather have a teacher in place versus a substitute in place. A teacher knows the curriculum and is certified, versus a substitute who doesn’t know the curriculum as well. I don’t think this is going to take away any teaching positions; in fact, I think this is more like a band-aid until we find a permanent solution.”

The board voted in favor of the proposal 5-1, with Hensley being the lone dissent.

“We’re two weeks into the school year, and we need to get teachers into the classroom, and if this is the best way to do that, then fantastic,” Levy said.

The board also voted to approve the circulation of a survey in order to gauge public interest in the idea of implementing a district-wide student uniform policy.

“This is just a survey that will go out to the public starting tomorrow (September 12) through November 3,” said Vice Chair Shannon Davis. “As we venture forth with this over the next couple of months, the community feedback is most important to me in how we want to proceed with things and at what rate or if at all.”

Hensley was again the lone dissent as he viewed the survey as a potential waste of administrative time and that the new, stricter dress code would work just as well.

The Moore County Schools Board of Education will next meet October 10.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal

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