Clay schools climb to top 10 for graduation rate

  • (Lorrie Ross • Clay County Progress) Angel Owens presents the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act State Pl
    (Lorrie Ross • Clay County Progress) Angel Owens presents the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act State Pl

Clay County’s Board of Education room was filled as Monday night’s BOE meeting began, but it was not because of any sort of controversy. It was good news. Clay County High School was named in North Carolina’s Top 10 for graduation rate at 93.6 percent, up from 86 percent. Along with that, Clay Schools Superintendent Dale Cole presented awards to three principals for their respective schools’ achievements.

Lindsey Waldroup Hodnett, principal of Hayesville Elementary School, accepted the HES exceeded growth certificate, while Principal Tommy Hollingsworth accepted the met expected growth certificate for Hayesville Middle School. Hayesville High School Principal Jim Saltz accepted his school’s met expected growth award. Cole qualified the awards by saying, “Obviously, I had nothing to do with it. This is all the work of my predecessors and great principals.”

High school sports teams were honored for their end of season standings. These were: the HHS ladies golf team, women’s cross country and men’s soccer. Clay County Progress sports has run separate articles about these teams.

District IT employee Greg Charles was not present; however, the agenda showed his appointment as Committee Chairman for Youth Education/NC Trout Unlimited Council. Cole said he wanted to express his appreciation to Jimmy Moore, the school’s Director of Transportation. “I don’t think he sleeps,” Cole laughed. “He has been invaluable to me, calming me about the weather.”

During his superintendent’s report, Cole shared a lot of information, starting with school report data which compares the past three years. The data was extensive; however, this is a short compilation.

At HES, reading proficiency levels met or exceeded the state average across all grades and the school exceeded growth last year. Math proficiency levels far exceeded the state averages in all grades. It is less than one point from being a B school. HMS met growth as a school; however, reading proficiency levels are not at the state average while overall math proficiency met or exceeded state averages. HHS met growth and achieved a B grade as a school. One area for improvement is Math 3 proficiency.

Complete school report data is available at: src/?county=Clay.

Angel Owens presented interesting statistics. The state’s Every Student Succeeds Act State Plan identifies schools for targeted support and improvement when schools have consistently under performing subgroups of students. These may include economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities. Both HES and HMS are on the list of 1,464 schools. “Almost every school on your list is there for students with disabilities. It’s across the state,” she said. They are given $10,000 per targeted school, but it is not enough. New curriculum are needed with trainings, students need more time and extra help with tests and other accommodations. “These are the kids who need lots of inclusion and we have greatly increased ours,” she said.

Owens said she is excited the schools will have their day treatment program in place through Appalachian Counseling Services in January. Cole shared what he had been up to since his arrival. Because he remembers being a first-year teacher, his entry plan involves meeting every first-year teacher. He also intends to meet every other staff member individually. Cole has attended meetings with Theresa Waldroup, of Community for Schools, to get to know the community. “Her group does amazing things for our students,” he added.

The BOE also renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the organization. In addition, Cole gave this information:

• He interviewed with the Clay County Progress and radio.

• Attended Leadership II’s graduation.

• Emailed Senator Jim Davis and will meet with him next time he is in town.

• Attended a field trip to Southwire with CTE students.

• Reviewed school safety plans with Technology Coordinator Adrian Jeffries.

• HHS Student Council will be his student rep group as student voice.

Cole asked the board to be part of a resolution urging the state to take action to remit civil penalties unconstitutionally withheld from North Carolina Public Schools. “This has been ongoing thing for about 20 years by school boards across the state fighting to get this done,” he said. In 1997, the N.C. General Assembly created a fund where all civil penalties paid by state agencies would be collected. In 2008, the N.C. Supreme Court found the agencies in violation and said they owed more than $747 million.

The court said the money should be divided and used for school technology, especially in districts where technology is insufficient. “Only 38 percent of N.C. local schools meet the state’s four-year replacement goal for student devices and more than 30 percent have no money for replacement technology,” Cole continued.

Technology is an important part of a student’s learning experience. Only a fraction of the money has been paid since 2018 and the defendants have not made an effort to make up the remaining amount of money. Cole said the school boards have tried unsuccessfully to work with the defendants. Once it reconvenes in January, the N.C. General Assembly will be asked to work out a multiyear plan for the agencies to pay this money which was diverted to other projects. Cole presented the board with the entire resolution, including the defendant state agencies and they approved it.

The principals each gave reports on their own schools. Jim Saltz started the HHS report saying,“Attendance is paramount and it is up.”

• HHS had two graduates of Leadership Chatuge II - teacher Austin Hedden and student Cameron Gray.

• Serena Penland attended HOBY, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership.

• 12 students traveled to Denmark.

• HHS band concert will be Monday, Dec. 9.

• HHS chorus concert will be Monday, Dec. 16.

Hollingsworth’s report mentioned his school’s sports teams and more:

• STEM received some robot design awards.

• For character education, the students hoped to spell out the letter I on the football field for “be the I in kind.”

Hodnett said HES had a busy, but good month:

• Fire prevention and safety week.

• Some wrote letters to deployed veterans.

• Kindergartners visited the care center.

• Fourth grade viewed fossils thanks to Georgia Mountain Research Center.

• Fourth grade also started its recorder unit.

Cole advised of a policy update for Policy 7241-Drug and Alcohol Testing of Commercial Vehicle Operators. In January, an online database for commercial license holders and commercial learners’ permit holders will be easier to access and schools must query the database for some applicants. “It creates a clearinghouse record of drug and alcohol violations for the past five years or until the return of duty process,” Cole explained. “This will be for jobs like bus drivers.” He and Clay County attorney Merinda Woody shared information with the board about a 99 year lease for the ballfields. Details are still being finalized. The next board of education meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16.