CARTHAGE — The Moore County Board of Education met Monday with two major topics up for discussion.
The first topic the board was presented with was a recommendation from Superintendent Tim Locklair to adopt an amended 2022-2023 Budget Resolution for the first quarter to account for an increase of $6,518.343.07 from what they previously had budgeted.
However, Board Vice Chair David Hensley presented his own recommendation for utilizing the funding increase to cover some previously approved costs that had dipped into the district’s fund balance reserves.
“In order to decompress the classified staff’s salary and to hire an additional full-time counselor for Crain’s Creek to help address the situation out there, this school board did something that you should never really do, and that is we dipped into our fund balance in order to fund current operations,” Hensley said. “That fund balance is there for emergencies – and you also shouldn’t pay recurring costs such as classified staff salary raises and a new permanent position out of one-time use funds – but this school board, four or five months ago, when we implemented it, it was a bitter pill to choose, but we ultimately chose to get our classified staff where they needed to be and coupled with the need for a counselor at Crain’s Creek was important enough to break the glass and pull the emergency lever.”
“My recommendation is that we exhibit fiscal discipline and responsibility, and we put the [previously approved funding] back in our fund balance rather than just give the administration $1.2 million to spend,” Hensley said. “That’s not to say that if a project comes up and we need something for that, the superintendent cannot come to us, but I just don’t want to give a blank check.”
Countering that recommendation, Dr. Locklair stated that, while he does not like using the fund balance for the recurring costs, a lot of the additional funding was tied to specific programs and funding requirements and couldn’t be used as Hensley implied.
However, more confusion arose from the superintendent’s statement, with it appearing that it was implied that in the initial budget that was drafted and approved, various things, such as CTE programs and SRO funding, were not already funded.
“I’m very, very, very concerned with a budget process where a budget is presented to the board with an incorrect assumption that the budget is complete and everything is fully funded,” Hensley said. “We were contemplating spending $1 million renovating a locker room while, apparently, the central office was withholding from us information that our CTE programs and our SROs weren’t funded at all. That’s what I refuse to believe. Either we have a very broken process, or there’s something else going on here. We need to table this until we can get to the bottom of what exactly our budget process was. Were these very important items left out of the budget that was presented to the board and never funded, or were they just, in fact, thrown in there, knowing there would eventually be money available? I just want to know what the process was.”
“The bottom line is we need to start exhibiting fiscal discipline and fiscal restraint because the cliff is right here, and we need to start planning for that.”
Following the tabling of the amended budget resolution, the Moore County Board of Education approved a resolution effectively banning TikTok and ByteDance, Ltd. in all capacities within Moore County Schools and More County Schools’ property.
“I am presenting a resolution asking to remove any and all programs and applications entitled as or emanating from TikTok and ByteDance, Ltd., and their subsidiaries from all software and hardware devices owned, leased, or operated by Moore County Schools, to filter out TikTok and any other ByteDance, Ltd., applications and take all other necessary steps to prevent access to TikTok and ByteDance, Ltd. software and applications by those using wireless data transmission and any network controlled or operated by or used through Moore County Schools; and, to avoid any requirement or suggestion that a student use or access TikTok or a ByteDance, Ltd. program or application as a method of education or learning,” said Board Chair Robert Levy.
“We are not here trying to say that students don’t have the right to go on the apps they want while they are outside of our purview,” Levy said. “That is a matter between their parents and themselves. The United States Congress, as well as the executive portion of the federal government, have eliminated TikTok from applications on government devices. TikTok and ByteDance are very closely associated with the government of China as well as the Chinese Communist Party, and we have a concern that such things are not secure for our students. We also have concerns that our students’ images are being digitized by foreign governments and are being utilized by foreign governments. That is not what we want to do. The resolution makes a determination that whatever educational advantages are to TikTok, they can be utilized in other ways and by other means. This is not political, at least from my understanding. This is something we’re doing to try and protect our computer system and to try and protect our students from the exploitation of their images.”
While TikTok and all forms of social media were already blocked on school networks for students, these extra steps also prevent teachers and staff from engaging with it as well and will keep it out of the classrooms entirely.
This action is also one of the first by any district in North Carolina and even more broadly across the US to formally ban TikTok and ByteDance, Ltd. entirely from their schools.
The Moore County Board of Education will next meet February 13.