Currituck Board of Ed approves moving forward with graduation plans

Published 9:56 am Thursday, May 14, 2020

On May 7, the Currituck County Board of Education met virtually with school administration to tackle plans with graduation, prom and their budget for 2020-21.

The meeting began with public comment, where letters and voicemails from the Currituck County school community were heard by the board. Most expressed concern about impending graduations for both J.P. Knapp Early College and Currituck County High School.

Knapp was originally scheduled to have their graduation on May 22; CCHS’s was scheduled for June 5. Parents and seniors alike were adamant about having a ceremony, willing to forgo traditional means, but not the graduation itself.

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“We need to be listening to the majority of them,” Vice Chair Dwan Craft said. Renee Dowdy, assistant superintendent agreed: “There is nothing more important than getting to stand on that stage . . . as the sun is setting and a crowd of three thousand people are there to cheer on the graduates.”

Both high school principals were present to partake in discussion. Dr. Brian Matney, principal of CCHS, said after surveying his 243 graduating students, the majority were not opposed to postponing graduation. However, he noted, “the more we postpone, the more likely people won’t be able to participate.

Denise Fallon, principal of Knapp, was willing to push graduation to May 28, due to the holiday. She noted that some of her 63 students suggested conducting a “hybrid” ceremony, having only a small number of individuals present at a time to receive their diploma.

A drive-through system was suggested as well, eliminating physical contact but still allowing for people to gather in the same general area. Dowdy mentioned the “momentous amount of work” that was ahead if any of these options were considered and/or selected. “We can’t put things off,” she said.

After some back and forth between the board, Dowdy and the principals, board member Will Crodick made a motion to plan for Knapp’s graduation on May 28 and CCHS’s on June 11. He left the details to be worked out by principals and staff in terms of implementing safety measures, finding a venue and such.

The motion also included having a backup plan, in case the phases of reopening as per governor orders were delayed. The motion was unanimously approved by the board.

As for prom, Dowdy started by saying, “if we could give [one to] every kid the world, we most certainly would.” However, on the list of priorities, majority ruled in graduation taking precedence over all other school-related activities that were canceled.

In terms of the budget for fiscal year 2020-21, finance officer Larissa York explained that the minimal amount of information from state and federal levels had led to an interim budget resolution.

This resolution allows the board to continue operating on the current year’s budget past July 1, while working on finalizing the budget for 2020-21. “When we get more information, I’ll have concrete numbers and come up with a real budget,” York said.

Chair Karen Etheridge motioned to approve the draft budget and the interim budget resolution, with an amendment made by Crodick to modify the $1 million in county appropriation to $1.25 million. All were in favor.

As for capital outlay, the $400,000 normally received was cut.

Matthew Mullins, facility maintenance and transportation director, said he had to remove multiple line items to make up for the loss, including a new track, air conditioning units and wrestling mats.

Sandra Reynolds, public information officer, added to the list of cuts: $72,000 that was going to bring new Chromebooks to ninth grade students was removed from the line items.

The original budget submitted for capital outlay totaled $1.4 million, which accounted for all line items previously listed and more. Etheridge motioned to submit the original budget, at $1.4 million, and include all line items. The board agreed to leave cuts up to county commissioners.

One other order of business dealt with the search for a new superintendent. The current superintendent, Mark Stefanik, submitted his resignation in April to pursue a new path in Ohio. He will remain with Currituck through July.

Etheridge told the board that May 10 will mark the first advertising day for the position. She aimed to hire a superintendent by mid-August. Board member Janet Rose motioned to adjust the hiring timeline to have someone in place by July 31 and all were in favor.

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