CARTHAGE — The Moore County Schools Board of Education met Monday, May 8, with a full agenda of action items, including a vote on an upcoming calendar for the 2024-25 school year.
The board’s first report was a proposal for a potential Student Uniform Policy.
According to board member Shannon Davis, who presented the policy, the reason behind looking into the policy is mainly for safety and education.
“It creates cohesion, expectations are removed and a sense of equality is available, children from all socio-economic backgrounds are on a level playing field and it creates a standard that we are all the same and all worthy of mutual respect,” Davis said. “Individuals not attending schools are easily identifiable, so when we’re off campus and we’re all together as a group, and especially with our elementary students and maybe even our middle-grade students, it helps to keep them all together. Gang colors are non-existent, bullying is minimized, it virtually eliminates dress code violations and the inconsistencies of enforcing them and teachers have more time to focus on teaching because they’re no longer having to monitor that.”
Following the preliminary report, the board appointed a committee composed of Davis, Pauline Bruno, and Philip Holmes to look into the policy and bring a formal proposal back before the board.
“We’re not going to take any action on the uniform proposal today,” said Board Chair Robert Levy. “We are just in the beginning of taking a look at that policy. It’s not going to happen today, and it’s probably not going to happen any time in the immediate future, but we’re beginning to look at that policy.”
The board was then presented with two proposals for the 2024-25 School Calendar. Previously, the board had requested a potential early-start calendar to be explored, however, the early-start calendar would violate NC School Calendar Law.
“As a school district, we have to model obedience to the law,” Levy said. “There are reasons and things that we might do to do things that we might call ‘civil disobedience,’ but if we get sued, every dollar we give to a law firm is a dollar that we don’t have for our students.”
However, Vice Chair David Hensley, who initially led the charge for a change in the calendar, voiced his support for going against the law.
“The fiduciary responsibility of this board is the education of our children,” Hensley said. “Our fiduciary duty is not to the tourism and travel industry so they can rent a few more cottages out on the outer banks. Our students have a constitutional right, enshrined in our state constitution, for a sound and basic education, and this current North Carolina school calendar is untenable.”
The board ultimately approved a traditional start calendar with Hensley, Holmes and Bruno the dissenting votes.
The board also approved the participation of the Community Learning Center at Pinckney in the Alternative Accountability Model for 2023-2024.
“The amount of money that we spend on education at Pinckney is approximately $26,000 per student,” Hensley said. “I’m an efficiency person. I believe that we have to make every dollar that we spend on education go as far as we can and get as much value… But this board is proud to spend that additional money on these students.”
The board then awarded a bid to EnviroShield Roofing Services for $411,070 to replace the roofing at Elise, North Moore and Highfalls Schools.
“This board, when we took office, we decided we were going to circle back and revisit all of the capital improvement projects which had been previously costed and approved by the previous board, but the money had not yet been expended for,” Hensley said. “This project was originally budgeted at $1.2 million, and we ended up saving $867,000. I want the public to know that this is making your tax dollars and our precious educational dollars go further. With these savings, and the previous savings from the gyms, there is $7 million in savings, and so rather than getting three gyms airconditioning and new roofs, we’re going to get five gyms, and we think we’ll be able to get an entire school out of trailers.”
The board also appointed Steve Woodward to the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees following a vote by the board. Woodward received four votes, one from each of Levy, Hensley, Bruno and Ken Benway to win the majority.
In a scathing beration about the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees, Hensley made a few strong claims about apparent law and ethics violations made by the board.
“Three weeks ago, in preparation for this, I started spending some time on the Sandhills Board of Trustees website, and it is absolutely, remarkably, unsatisfactory the illegal and improper things they’ve been doing for years, maybe as long as a decade.”
Hensley claimed that the board of trustees had been violating the open meetings laws – including lack of notice of meetings, meetings in exclusive country clubs, votes outside of meetings and the destruction of public records – had failed to properly communicate with Moore County Schools and were actively enacting policies to the detriment of MCS.
His support of Woodward, he claimed, was to enact reform with the board of trustees.
Finally, the board designated the English Hall at North Moore High School as the Iris W. Burns English Wing and approved a schedule for review of the School Improvement Plans for Robbins, Aberdeen and Southern Pines Elementary Schools.
The Moore County Schools Board of Education will next meet June 12.