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Orange County Schools Board of Education discusses graduation plans, school reassignments

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The Orange County Board of Education building, as pictured on Monday, March 28, 2022, is located on East King Street in Hillsborough.

The Orange County Schools Board of Education met on Nov. 6 in the Whitted Building in Hillsborough to discuss high school graduation locations and school reassignment.

What’s new?

  • This year’s Exceptional Children Teacher of Excellence is Brynn Lewter. She has taught at Efland-Cheeks Global Elementary for three years
    • “One thing that really captures how we feel about her at Efland is that it takes a very special person to hear what a child cannot say, and she does that every single day,” Kelly Parks, Efland-Cheek Elementary principal, said.
  • Community members discussed pay increases for coaching staff, with requests to increase pay scales during the public comment period.
    • Nick Shriner, head wrestling coach at Orange Middle School and teacher and assistant teacher at Orange High School, said coaches have received the same pay since 2008, and that coaches should be more fairly compensated.
    • Shriner also said additional requirements such as teaching an increased number of classes and more certification requirements contribute to the need for higher wages.
      • “What's particularly frustrating is that there is no criteria for pay increase due to the freeze, once a coach enters the pay scale they are stuck at that pay no matter how many years of experience they gain or their longevity in Orange County Schools,” Shriner said
  • Woolpert, an architectural consulting firm, presented a Long Range Optimization Plan, which recommended multiple options for school renovation. The different options include areas of interest such as 10-year facility needs, upgrades in learning tools and new construction for schools. Some board members, including chair Anne Purcell, expressed confusion with Woolpert's budgeting recommendations.
    • “Gravelly Hill Middle School is not a very old school, and you have that it needs a $48.5 million renovation, and Central Elementary is an old school, and you're talking about replacing it for $49 million,” she said. “So, I'm just wondering what Gravelly Hill needs so much work that it's $48 million.”
    • Woolpert's representative at the meeting said the cost for Gravelly Hill Middle was so high because it is a larger school and because there is a disproportionate part of undersized spaces in the school.
  • A map was presented to the board with a draft of reassignments of school districts. The map suggested changes for 346 studentsand is intended to combat overcrowding within elementary and high schools.
    • Sarah Patterson, New Hope Elementary School social worker, expressed concern over whether the maps prioritize student achievement. 
      • “I would like to see the district support student learning by assigning staff to schools in a way that actually supports specific student needs present in those buildings,” she said.

What’s changed?

  • Orange County Schools' spring 2024 high school graduations will take place on June 7, the day after the last day of school. Each graduation will take place on the individual high school’s football field. Last year Orange High School and Cedar Ridge High School held their ceremonies in the Dean E. Smith Center, and Partnership Academy’s graduation took place in Cedar Ridge’s auditorium. 
    • The cost for graduation ceremonies to take place on football fields is $59,000.
  • The board also approved edits to Policy 3540 of the Comprehensive Health Education Program, which includes changes in compliance with Senate Bill 49, suggested by interim superintendent James Merrill.

What’s next?

The board will meet again on Dec. 4 in the Orange County Board of Education office in Hillsborough at 6 p.m.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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