Josh Wagner: 2015 a busy year for school board

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 15, 2015

By Josh Wagner

Special to the Salisbury Post

Before I was elected to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, I will admit that I was unclear on many of the functions of the board. Because there are so many layers to the educational machine, the lines between federal, state, board, and staff responsibilities are often blurred. Because of this multitude of layers, I now realize more than ever that many in the community may find it difficult to see for what our board is responsible.

Furthermore, it is perhaps even more difficult to look at our board and gauge its effectiveness as a whole. With that in mind, I believe that we as a board should work diligently to communicate our areas of focus for any given year.

Before I begin addressing 2015, I want to be clear. This article is certainly not a comprehensive look at every aspect of our board’s involvement over the past year. Quite frankly, that type of picture isn’t even possible in a single article. I would also like to point out that this is in no way an effort to shift the focus from areas of our system that still require great improvement. I assure you that our board is as aware of that, and as eager to see improvement, as anyone in this county.

With that said, I do believe that our board has taken action on many important issues in 2015. To be more specific, I believe that we have addressed many logistical areas that have needed improvement for some time. Although this is only a portion of what we must do, it is vital nonetheless.

1. Our board met for its first “board retreat” since before 2012. During this retreat, we agreed on a list of focuses for our board for 2015. This list has since been updated for 2016. The list has also been posted on the school system website for the community to review.

2. Our board hired new legal representation for itself. This process had not been done in more than 40 years. Furthermore, our board created a formal job description and list of expectations for the new firm. This description did not exist before 2015.

3. Our board gave direction to begin the creation of a systemwide long-range plan. This plan includes a study of our physical facilities, system safety, paving needs, roofing needs and a demographic study to help direct future construction and policy.

4. Our board reinstituted video recording of all board meetings. The meetings are now posted online for the community to review. I hope that we can incorporate live-streaming after we are consolidated into the new central office in 2016.

5. After last year’s funding discussion with the county commissioners, only $6.5 million had been effectively allocated for projects (new central office). With that in mind, we worked with the new county commission to amend the agreement. We now have $27.5 million allocated for a new consolidated west Rowan elementary school. Furthermore, we have allocated $6.5 million for current roofing and security needs within the system. Both of these projects will effectively begin in 2016.

6. Our board allocated $900,000 out of our capital fund balance to address immediate safety concerns with bleachers, sidewalks and railings at our area stadiums. This allocation allowed us to address all outstanding safety concerns pertaining to stadium bleachers and railing.

Although our board is responsible for direction in these areas, nothing would be accomplished or implemented without the hard work of school system administration. Furthermore, our system would serve no real purpose without the more than 3,000 staff members that dedicate themselves each day to caring for our students.

I realize that this system is in search of improvement. However, I also fully believe that everyone that works within this system is determined to play a part in that improvement. With that in mind, I would like to thank our staff for what they do. Without their sacrifices, our system would be unable to reach the 20,000 students that it sees each day. Board members will come and go, policies will change, and ideas will evolve. However, the one constant will always be our dedicated staff members that insist on offering their best to this county’s young people. I am excited to see what we as a board and a system can accomplish in the coming year.

Joshua Wagner is chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.