New leaders in place for Dare school board

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

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Leadership of the Dare County Board of Education turned over Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

Joe Tauber is now chairman and David Twiddy is vice chairman.

Tauber was nominated by Twiddy. Mary Ellon Ballance was nominated by Susan Bothwell. The vote was 4-3 with Twiddy, Carl Woody, Frank Hester and Tauber voting for the new chairman.

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For the vice chairman, Twiddy was nominated by Woody and Margaret Lawler was nominated by Bothwell. The vote was 4-3, a repeat of the chairmanship election.

In remarks after the election, Tauber said his leadership style will seek to “find what we have in common as opposed to differences.”

He said “one thing we have in common is the love of children. As long as we keep that focus on children, I think we will be better served.”

Tauber called for input from teachers, administrators and parents and the community. He announced that the board will be holding town hall meetings on Hatteras Island, Roanoke Island and the northern beaches, saying that the town hall format lends itself to dialog.

The evening was opened by the Manteo High School band under the direction of Emma Alter.

Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly officially opened the regular meeting and conducted the election.

The first item under new business was considering modifications to the system’s face coverings policy 4231/5021/7263. North Carolina General Assembly Session Law 2021-130 states “For the 2021‑2022 school year, all public school units shall adopt a policy regarding the use of face coverings by employees and students. The governing body of the public school unit shall vote at least once a month on whether the face coverings policy should be modified.”

At this meeting, Lawler made the motion not to make any modifications to the policy. Hester seconded. The vote was 5-2 with Tauber and Woody voting against the motion.

In a follow-up phone call, Tauber confirmed his vote and said “I think it’s time to move forward in making masks optional.”

His decision is based on low transmission rates, hospitalization and deaths for children. He also has “anecdotal evidence from parents saying masks are worse than the virus for their children.”

The board put in place a new virtual school option for the second semester of the current school year. The option was proposed by Farrelly.

For this semester, 280 students – of which 75 are elementary students – are attending school virtually.

Under the new policy, the elementary students will be taught at the district level rather than the school level. Parents have until Jan. 3, 2022 to make a decision about continuing in virtual.

For grades 6 through 12, if a student is failing two classes, that student will be assigned to face-to-face learning for the second semester. Farrelly said one-third to 40% of students in virtual instruction are failing one course.

The deadline for grades 6 through 12 is Jan. 20, 2022.

Farrelly said letters were ready to go out. The board voted unanimously for the changes to the virtual program.

The board voted to increase substitute teacher daily pay rate. For the rest of the school term, non-certified substitutes will receive $112 instead of $80 per day and certified substitutes will receive $144 per day instead of $103. The increase is effective immediately.

Calendar changes approved by the board include an optional workday for May 17, 2022 for the primary election. Dare County Board of Elections requested the use of several school facilities.

Associate Superintendent Sandy Kinzel presented additional changes to the calendar.

Elementary school teachers are required to take 168 hours of training on the statewide Science of Reading initiative by June. Farrelly called the requirement the most significant amount of training in his 23 years in the education field.

To help the elementary school faculty members, calendar changes were proposed and unanimously adopted by the board. The calendar change will provide time for elementary teachers to complete some portion of the required 168 hours during a workday.

The adjustments are Jan. 25, 2022 becomes an optional workday; March 7 is added as an optional workday and the required workday/teacher conference day is shifted to March 8; and an early dismissal day on March 25 is converted to a required workday.

The board approved revised school improvement plans for 2021-22 school term for each school in the system.

At the request of the Town of Kill Devil Hills, the Dare County Board of Education voted to provide a letter of support for the town’s application for a FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Grant. The town’s project, called Wrightsville Goddard Interceptor, is estimated to cost $5.7 million for the drainage improvement.

The letter states “The district has done an analysis on project need and identified a high need for this project. The Town of Kill Devil Hills receives all of our storm water and there have been numerous flooding events on school property.”

On first reading, the board adopted a change to Policy 7510: Employee Leaves and Absences. The current policy of requiring 60 days notice when asking for leave without pay is reduced to 30 days. The change was recommended by the board’s Policy Committee and the superintendent.