During the Orange County Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday night, the board discussed recent changes enacted by the N.C. General Assembly and deliberated on a land use study and the use of unallocated funds.
- In response to the General Assembly overturning six of Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes, board chair Anne Purcell restated the board’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in schools.
- The bills — Senate Bill 49 and House Bills 219, 574, 618 and 808 — have now been passed by the General Assembly despite Cooper's vetoes. They limit instruction about LGBTQ+ topics in early grades; restrict gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors; ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in middle school, high school and college; and change regulations on charter schools.
- “We remain focused on creating a school environment where everyone feels safe and included and are always welcome within our buildings,” Purcell said.
- During the public comment period, multiple community members voiced concerns over the sudden departure of former superintendent Monique Felder. Current and former OCS employees, parents of students and other community members also used this period to speak about the county school district moving forward after the new legislation.
- “Many of my NAACP members are concerned about the direction of the school system since the departure of Dr. Monique Felder,” Matt Hughes, the president of Northern Orange NAACP, said.
- “I believe that all children have the right to an equal, equitable, inclusive and safe environment to learn,” Wendy Padilla said. “I am wondering why the Orange County School Board is not abiding by these basic simple principles.”
- Thomas Dudley and Brian Godfrey from the Operations Research and Education Laboratory presented their group's land use study — which estimates school needs based on population growth and movement in the district — to the board.
- OREd is a third-party evaluation research group aiming to depoliticize school planning issues.
- The study considered multiple factors surrounding transportation, industry development, residential development and U.S. Census numbers to create projections addressing infrastructure and forecast school needs and enrollment.
What decisions were made?
- The board approved a Title I budget request proposal based on student needs — determined by free and reduced lunch qualification percentages — across each school.
- Title I schools receive this funding to provide extra resources to students. Funds must be rooted in the school’s improvement plan and stakeholder feedback.
- The grant is federal funding given to school districts to support their K-12 schools with at least 35 percent of their enrolled students living at or below the federal poverty line.
- According to OCS federal programs director Tonya Wagner, the county school district is required to give funds to any school with more than 75 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.
- The board also unanimously approved the request for two part-time graduation coach positions at Partnership Academy.
- According to Lee Williams, the OCS chief equity officer, Partnership Academy has been labeled a comprehensive school for improvement — or CSI — because its graduation rate is below 67 percent.
- The salaries for these coaches will come solely from the CSI budget and not Orange County Schools, Stan Farrington, the principal of Partnership Academy, said.
- Rhonda Rath, the OCS chief financial officer, asked the board how they should prioritize spending the remaining $915,000 in the 2023-24 fiscal year budget. The board approved the allocation of funds to support a permanent daily substitute teacher and an additional language teacher.
- The remaining unallocated funds were approved to be held until principals can participate in recommendations for how to use the funds.
- The next OCS board meeting will be held Sept. 11 with a closed session at 6 p.m. followed by open session at 7 p.m.