CARTHAGE — The Moore County School Board voted 3-2 to reinstate a mask mandate for students, teachers, staff and visitors at its regular business meeting Monday. The board also met for a work session Monday ahead of its business meeting with the search for a new superintendent topping that agenda.
Superintendent Bob Grimesey announced his intention to retire in October of 2021 with January 31, 2022, as his final day. The board heard an update on the search for a new superintendent from Jim O’Rourke from the N.C. School Boards Association which has been retained by the board to conduct the search for a permanent superintendent. Dr. Tim Locklair, who currently serves as the Chief Officer for Academic and Student Support Services, will serve as the interim superintendent effective February 1, 2022.
During its midday work session, the board discussed a list of attributes on the job posting for the next superintendent with O’Rourke. Members David Hensley and Bob Levy questioned O’Rourke about the list.
“I would like the next superintendent to make his own list,” said Levy.
“I think it is important that we come up with a handful of bullets stating what attributes we’re looking for,” said Hensley. “If the number one thing is understanding equity factors, then that’s what we are going to get. If the number one thing is significant improvement of academic performance and the building of young men and women of character … then we’re going to get a superintendent that’s focused on those. We do need to have this section in there but as a board, we need to agree on what those are and that’s a public discussion and debate.”
Board chair Pam Thompson said she agreed, in part, with Hensley that the list might need to be changed. “I think we need to have a list of potential attributes, as Mr. Hensley said, that we are looking for,” said Thompson. “Having someone who understands our goals of student academic achievement as well as equity factors — and I don’t think either one of those are more important than the other — I think we can have a list of top five or six where all of the items are equally important.”
Levy recommended eliminating the list for the job advertisement saying that “we’re going to have a very spirited discussion one day on who the superintendent ought to be but that discussion of the attributes of the superintendent probably shouldn’t take place today.”
The board agreed without further debate and the list of attributes was eliminated from the job posting and O’Rourke said his team would move forward in advertising the position to potential candidates.
At the business meeting, which started at 6:30pm, the board acknowledged its monthly “Engage Inspire Succeed” honorees which included certified staff member Molly Walsh of Crain’s Creek Middle School; support staffer Victoria Reyes of Southern Middle School; and Pinecrest High School student Sarah Holder. Kimberly Fielder-Jones of North Moore High School was recognized for receiving the 2021 NCTC K-12 Theatre Arts Educator Award.
The board also provided a tribute to Grimesey as the January business meeting would be his last as superintendent.
The board also took action on its COVID-19 Management plan which includes a mandatory vote each month on the status of masks in schools. Members Stacey Caldwell and Philip Holmes were absent from the meeting leaving five members voting.
The board voted 3-2 to reinstate the mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors. Thompson was joined by Libby Carter and Ed Dennison in support of reinstating the mask mandate. Hensley and Levy voted to keep masks optional.
The board did modify its proposed mask mandate following a suggested amendment by Hensley. The board’s new approved policy states that students, faculty and staff who test positive for COVID are out of school for 10 calendar days. Persons who are exposed to COVID who do not exhibit symptoms may return to school if they wear a mask.
In a statement posted after the meeting, the board said the move was “due to the rising number of positive COVID cases and related quarantines resulting from the omicron variant.” The release also clarified that masks are required on school buses. Exceptions to the mask rule are while eating or drinking, and when outside.