The school board adopts criteria for the end term to be masked; Superintendent contract renewed – THE RANT


By Richard Sullins | [email protected]

The Lee County Board of Education voted on Tuesday to maintain the blanket mandate for students, teachers, staff and visitors to county schools for at least the next two weeks – but the requirement ends could be in sight if current trends regarding COVID-19 maintain transmission.

The board of directors voted 4-2 to leave the current masking mandate in place until 10 consecutive calendar days of “moderate” transmission of the COVID virus have been recorded in the county before the next meeting on the 14th. December. If this objective can be achieved, a special meeting would be convened to review the situation and consider other measures. Members Pamela Sutton and Christine Hilliard spoke in dissent.

Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan reported on advice from the ABC Collaborative, a Duke University-based program that pairs scientists and physicians with school and community leaders to help understand the most recent and relevant information on COVID-19. Bryan said the most current advice for the collaboration is to continue the mask’s tenure, although he has also discussed a possible relaxation of terms based on lower levels of community transmission.

Although there was initially a discussion about the goal of ending the term with the conclusion of the first semester after the December meeting, Sutton suggested using the community transmission model as a benchmark to be reached so that the system can get closer to a real date of masking to finish. Member Patrick Kelly brought forward a motion to aim for 10 consecutive calendar days when the level of community transmission does not exceed “moderate”, a motion which was then passed.

According to a law passed this summer by the North Carolina General Assembly, school boards are required to review face covering requirements at least once a month until the law is changed. The timetable adopted by the school board means that a reassessment of the mandate could take place as early as November 21 or no later than December 14.

Bus drivers will increase

The council adopted a revision of the salary scale of its bus drivers. The plan would adjust the pay amounts for bus drivers employed for 10 months per year, increasing the hourly rate for a junior bus driver or replacement from $ 12.92 to $ 16. More experienced drivers would see their hourly wages drop from $ 16.62 to $ 17.90 under the plan, which was approved earlier this month by the board’s finance committee. The total cost of these increases is approximately $ 220,000 and will come from the district transportation budget. Finance committee chairman Sutton called the plan “the biggest pay raise they’ve had in years.”

The wage hike for bus drivers comes a month after the council passed a separate plan to provide a one-time bonus for teachers and staff. Under this plan, all permanent and full-time certified and classified employees who are employed as of November 15, 2021 will receive a bonus of $ 2,000. All permanent part-time employees, again certified and classified, who work less than six hours per day and who are employed on November 15 will receive a pro-rated bonus.

Contract employees, as well as those who submit their resignations from the school system by November 15, will not receive the bonus. In addition to the $ 2,000 bonus, the district will also offer a one-time longevity bonus, the amount of which will be determined by the employee’s most recent hire date. Longevity bonuses range from $ 250 for zero to four years of service in the district up to $ 3,000 for 35 employees who have worked with Lee County schools for 25 years or more. The maximum combined amount of bonus an employee could receive is $ 5,000.

Superintendent’s contract renewed until 2024

In a separate action, the board voted 5-1 to renew Dr. Bryan’s employment contract until June 30, 2024. Sutton cast the only dissenting vote (Member Sherry Womack was absent).

An item titled “Informal Superintendent’s Assessment” was placed on the Board’s agenda during its closed session, in addition to other personnel items. After 70 minutes of deliberation, Dr Lynn Smith offered to extend Bryan’s contract for an additional 32 months without any further changes to his terms and conditions.

The board will hold its annual organizational meeting on December 14 and elect officers for the coming year. President Sandra Bowen, noting that new leaders may be chosen, said “this may well be my last night as chair of this board, as we go into a reorganization each December. And before I leave this chair, if that’s the case, I wanted to say what an honor it has been to serve as chair of this board and to serve with these amazing people. Everyone here has a heart for the students and a heart for education, and it has been a pleasure to serve.

Bowen is one of three Republicans on the board. Following Hilliard’s decision in September to change party, Democrats now hold the remaining four seats.

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