New diversity trainings and referral bonuses for employees of Orange County Schools were discussed by the Board of Education during its meeting on Monday night.
The Board was also presented with the findings of a study that compared the amount of OCS central office personnel to the amount in other North Carolina counties.
- During the meeting’s public comment period, district employees and parents voiced concerns about the contract renewal of the current OCS superintendent, Monique Felder.
- “Our district experienced unprecedented academic growth last year under her leadership,” Rosemary Deane, who works at New Hope Elementary, said.
- District superintendents are typically offered a three-year contract, which is often extended by one year, pending evaluation by the Board, Hillary MacKenzie, a former board member who spoke during the public comment period, said.
- The board members asked Lee Williams, the chief equity officer at OCS, questions about a potential contract with Pacific Educational Group.
- Pacific Educational Group is an organization that does training and consulting on improving diversity, equity and inclusion in schools and other organizations. OCS is currently considering which principals, teachers and administrative staff to send to certain trainings.
- An administrative group of 80 OCS employees will go through a two-day "Beyond Diversity" training.
- Board member Bonnie Hauser raised a question about the possibility of diversity training for the rest of district employees. Lee Williams said the trainings are currently underway in elementary schools.
- A study considering the number of OCS central office positions compared to districts of similar sizes was introduced to the Board by Felder and Stuart Berger, a consultant for Burns/Van Fleet.
- Berger said he cannot give a definitive answer about whether there are too many central office positions.
- Office positions in the OCS equity and communications departments were thoroughly discussed.
- “Orange County probably had the greatest emphasis on equity of any of the districts that I looked at,” Berger said.
- The Board took into consideration the academic calendars for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years.
- Four Orange County schools will act as primary voting sites on March 5, 2024.
- The Board discussed the option of removing early release days or replacing the fifth with another holiday to keep in line with N.C. school calendar legislation.
- The referral bonuses for the 2022-2023 school year and out-of-state relocation stipend were presented to the Board by Rhonda Rath, chief financial officer at OCS.
- “We’ve seen good success with this in our transportation department,” Rath said.
- OCS, along with the rest of North Carolina, is currently experiencing a bus driver shortage.
- Rath brought up the idea of expanding Gravelly Hill Middle School’s current out-of-state relocation initiative to the rest of OCS schools. The initiative currently provides new, out-of-state GHMS teachers and administrators a bonus of up to $5,000.
What decisions were made?
- The Board spoke in favor of a school closure on March 5, 2024, due to several OCS schools acting as polling locations.
- Additionally, the superintendent recommended the Board approve the academic calendars for the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years.
- The section of Policy 2130 concerning public comment at board meetings was approved. Priority is no longer given to community members speaking on agenda items. The section of Policy 2130 about board member compensation will be decided on at a later date.
- The Orange County Board of County Commissioners will hold a joint meeting with the boards of education of OCS and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City schools on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.
- The OCS Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting on March 6 at 7 p.m.
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