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New school board hits the ground running

With a new majority, board members and leadership, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will head in a different direction over the next few years.

“This board is different, obviously,” said Josh Wagner, the board’s newly-elected chairman, adding that there are differing points of view on the current board from the last one.

“The previous board worked well together even when they disagreed,” he said.

In that respect, Wagner said, he expects this board to be very similar.

Wagner was elected chairman in a motion initiated by Chuck Hughes. Wagner, Hughes, Travis Allen and Dean Hunter voted in favor of the motion. Dr. Richard Miller, Susan Cox and Jean Kennedy abstained from voting.

Newcomer Hunter was elected vice chair, and was nominated by Allen. Miller nominated Cox. Hunter, Allen, Hughes and Wagner voted for Allen. A vote was not taken for Cox because a majority of the board voted for Hunter.

In an effort to facilitate transparency, all school board votes will be recorded by name in the meeting minutes beginning in January.

Wagner and Miller both pointed out that any board member can request to have the names for a vote recorded at any point in time.

“I personally want the county to know how I voted,” said Hughes, who proposed the measure.

Hughes previously brought the measure to the board, but it was voted down. This time, the vote was 4-3, with Hughes, Wagner, Allen and Hunter voting for, and Cox, Kennedy and Miller voting against.

The board also discussed options making videos of all board meetings available online.

“The city and the county both do it,” Wagner said, adding that it does take some of the burden off of the written minutes and makes the meetings accessible for those who are unable to physically come to the meetings.

Director of Technology Candace Salmon-Hosey said the board decided to stop uploading audio recordings of board meetings online several years ago due to the “garbled quality” of the recordings.

The high quality video equipment needed to successfully stream the meetings online isn’t cheap.

Salmon-Hosey said the equipment would cost between $30,000 and $35,000, including mounted wall cameras, a video switcher, audio recorder, HDMI scaler and other equipment. Other expenses would come from installation, streaming and hosting and archiving content.

Board members suggested finding a cheaper, temporary option to use until the new central office building is built.

The board asked Salmon-Hosey to come up with several proposals for the board’s next meeting.

The board also approved a school calendar for the 2015-16 school year, as well as a resolution asking the state for more local control of academic schedules. 

In other news, the Board of Education:

  • Approved a course offering of Mobile Web Development Fundamentals, a class offered by Rowan Cabarrus Community College, at East Rowan High School.
  • Asked Chief Financial Officer Tara Trexler to come up with a proposal for hiring a grant writer for the school system.
  • Approved first readings of student behavior policies regarding disruptive behavior, student dress code, drugs and alcohol and criminal behavior, assaults, threats and harassment.
  • Changed the district’s athletic policy to allow student athletes who have been charged, but not convicted of felonies to be able to continue to play as long as they keep their grades and behavior in check.
  • Appointed Hunter and Miller to the Joint Planning Committee, which meets monthly to discuss the school system’s capital needs with county commissioners.
  • Appointed Cox, Hughes and Kennedy to the district’s appeals committee.
  • Accepted a gift of 31.5 acres of property from JTW Reality of North Carolina, LLC on Heilig Road, adjacent to the district’s current bus garage. Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann is in discussions with the property owner of the area between the two properties to switch land to provide an access road for the school system and to square up the corner of the other property.
  • Discussed the district’s accreditation process, which will provide feedback to the district through AdvancED, an outside agency.
  • Discussed the district’s roofing needs, which will be presented at the Joint Planning Committee’s next meeting.
  • Went into closed session to discuss personnel matters and to discuss school safety and formulate plans for incidents of school violence.

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