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Union County BOE discusses its legislative priorities with elected officials

Legislative Breakfast School calendar flexibility, school performance grades, a reduction in testing and teacher pay.

Those were only some of the top items up for discussion at the Feb. 8 Union County Board of Education’s (BOE) legislative breakfast with state elected officials Rep. Craig Horn, Rep. Dean Arp, Rep. Mark Brody and state senator Todd Johnson. Also in attendance at the meeting were Board Chair Melissa Merrell, Board Vice Chair Kathy Heintel, board members Matt Helms and Candice Sturdivant, and district Cabinet staff.

During the meeting, the board members discussed their priorities for the upcoming school year, starting with the first item on their agenda: school calendar flexibility.

The board members requested that school systems be allowed to open at least three weeks earlier or have the ability to align their calendars with that of local community colleges. The revision would also allow students to take their exams prior to winter break and end the school year on the Friday before Memorial Day.

UCPS has a phenomenal relationship with South Piedmont Community College, Merrell said, but trying to manage two different schedules does not work for students who want to take advantage of vocational classes offered at the community college.

As the discussion between the legislators and board members continued, the conversation quickly turned to school grades issued each year by the Department of Public Instruction.

Merrell said moving from an 80 percent achievement and 20 percent growth model to a 60 percent achievement and 40 percent growth model would be ideal.

During the remainder of the meeting, the board members and legislators discussed other priorities including a reduction in the number of mandated tests, restoration of supplements for teachers with advanced degrees, safe school environments and more.

At the end of the meeting, the legislators praised the district for its proactive approach to solving problems creatively through grant funding and innovative programs.

“The idea that the state is going to do it all is not a reality. That’s what I love about UCPS – someway and somehow you do your best to get grants and innovate,” Rep. Arp said. “I always say that I feel so great supporting Union County because you do so many assessments. You don’t wait for the state to do something, you go out and get the stuff you need to do.”

Echoing those sentiments, Horn said the district is really blessed to have its leadership.

“We’re so far ahead of everyone else that it’s unbelievable. That’s not to suggest we don’t have our challenges, but we are truly blessed” he said. “That should be an incentive for us to keep moving forward and do things that’s never been done before.”

For additional information about topics discussed during the meeting, a detailed list of the BOE’s 2019-2020 legislative agenda can be found on the district website at the following link: http://tinyurl.com/yxu77umy.

Posted: Feb. 11, 2019