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Orange County Schools Board of Education discusses spending, Indigenous Peoples Day


The Orange County Board of Education building sits on East King Street in Hillsborough on Monday, March 28, 2022.

The Orange County Schools Board of Education met on Monday night in the Whitted Building in Hillsborough to discuss the 2023-24 school year budget and academic data from the 2022-23 school year.

What’s new?

  • Orange County Schools received Cognia’s Values Driven Award of Excellence, which was presented by Debora Williams, the mid-Atlantic region director for Cognia.
    • Cognia is a nonprofit organization that does school consulting, accreditation and certification.
    • “The Values Driven Award of Excellence recognizes institutions that dream big, that stand for the learner, that are bold and daring, they drive potential, they tenaciously and relentlessly pursue their mission and they build connections by expanding and nurturing internal and external relationships,” Williams said.
  • Sarah Woody, a teacher at Grady A. Brown Elementary School, was recognized as Beginning Teacher of the Year. 
    • Last school year was Woody’s first as a full-time fourth-grade teacher. Woody was recommended for the award by Kimberly Griffis, the assistant principal of Brown Elementary.
  • Monday was Indigenous Peoples Day, which the board recognized in the announcements portion of the meeting.
    • Sarah Smylie, a member of the board, said that while a resolution from the board said Indigenous Peoples Day would be permanently recognized on the academic calendar, it was left off this year.
    • Carrie Doyle, a member of the board, said the board is implementing teacher training from the N.C. State Advisory Council on Indian Education.
    • Doyle said there is still discussion on how to recognize the tribal heritage on the River Park Elementary School land.
    • “We continue to pursue the establishment of an honors level course in Native American studies at the high school level, which I know it’s been hard to fill that role,” Doyle said. 
  • A notice was sent to principals yesterday regarding concerns about mold and air quality in high school buildings, according to interim superintendent Jim Merrill, following concern from public speaker Wendy Padilla.
    • “We are there and we’re certainly ready to get in and look at any particular concerns that staff would have,” Merrill said.

What’s changed?

  • Rhonda Rath, chief financial officer of OCS, said 21 percent of the 2024 fiscal year budget has been spent, and that 25 percent of the budgeted revenue has been raised.
    • These costs include teachers, salaries and benefits, substitute teachers, textbooks and instructional supplies.
    • “The first thing I’m going to look at is what’s coming in versus what’s gone out and to make sure that we have not paid out more than we have brought in,” Rath said.
    • This time last year, OCS was spending 19 percent of its budget. Rath said the increase this year was due to teacher vacancies being filled since last year.
  • Merrill also shared academic data from the 2022-23 school year.
    • Merrill said high school students are now graduating more “college and career ready” than the state average.
    • Third through eighth grade reading scores have grown double the rate of the rest of the state, and math proficiency rates have grown 24 points in two years.

What’s next?

  • The OCS Board of Education will meet again at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23 for a closed session in the Whitted Building, and an open session will begin at 7 p.m.

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