STARS Board, New Principal Looking Ahead
The STARS board of directors believes that new principal Wes Graner is capable of taking the school in the right direction.
On Wednesday, Graner joined the board for a training session and a regular meeting at Hampton Inn in Aberdeen.
Joel Medley, a consultant for the N.C. Office of Charter Schools, administered the training session, in which Graner and board members learned about the working relationship between a school's administrator and its board of directors.
Medley emphasized the importance of trust and unity to the group as he outlined the responsibilities of the administrator and each board member.
The board was told that the administrator's responsibility is to implement policies determined by the board. The administrator also brings any concerns or new business from the school to the board.
After the session, Medley said he believes the training allows the board to head into 2011 with a stronger sense of organization and responsibility as members work with the principal and teachers to improve end-of-grade (EOG) test scores and renew the school's charter.
"They're definitely heading in the right direction," Medley said. "The board getting training is a part of that process."
Graner, a former assistant principal at New Century Middle School, said he welcomed the training as someone who is new to the charter school model. He said the session gave him and board members a chance to openly discuss each person's responsibility to the school and its students.
"The board has been great with me," he said. "I feel like I have their complete trust."
During its meeting, the board also voted to stop the distribution of food that is not pre-packaged starting Jan. 3, when students return from the holiday break.
The decision came after board member Steven George proposed that the school establish a self-sustaining school lunch program that would operate based on food catered from local restaurants.
At the last regular meeting, the board decided to ask its attorney about the potential liability of distributing food and collecting money through such a program.
The school currently does not have a meal program because it lacks facilities to prepare and serve food under the standards of the Moore County Health Department.
The school's current policy is to inform parents upon enrollment that the school does not provide a meal program and that students must bring their lunch every day.
However, for the past eight years, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has sold slices of pizza on Fridays in order to raise money for the school's end-of-the-year production.
George said that the fundraiser brings in between $6,000 and $8,000 each year.
Volunteers have also been providing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout the week.
All of the board members agreed that they did not want to prevent children from having access to a meal at lunchtime, but several members also recognized that the school is liable for any student who gets sick from eating food distributed by anyone affiliated with the school.
Board member Bonnie McPeake stressed that any outside activities going on at the school need to be approved by the board before they can begin. She also said that the board should be aware of how money from these activities is collected.
McPeake referenced an e-mail from STARS office assistant Kim Senecal that said the school has only eight students who do not bring lunch.
McPeake said that Senecal did not know if the students would qualify for free and reduced lunch or they simply did not bring a lunch to school.
McPeake said that though the apparent number of students who need meals provided to them is not large enough to merit a school-wide meal program, the board should still consider a way to help those students.
"There is a moral obligation to provide meals in a way that does not make the school liable," she said.
As a part of the decision, the board also gave Wes Graner the authority to investigate ways to meet the needs of students who would qualify for free and reduced lunch in traditional public schools.
The board also evaluated the first benchmark results from the EOG Test Maker at each grade level.
In October, the board approved the purchase of the practice test program that allows teachers to formulate their own practice EOG tests based on the North Carolina standard course of study.
Students in each tested grade took tests based on material from an entire school year last week.
Board member and teacher representative Cathy Buchan described the testing as a "dry run" to see how the program works.
"As you can see, [the scores are] not terribly low," she said. "They're not terribly high."
Buchan also reminded members that students were tested on material that they may not have covered in their classes yet.
Members commented that the scores are a good starting point for teachers to evaluate as they move into the second semester.
Board member Sandy Lampros also gave an update on the school improvement plan, which mainly focuses on implementing strategies to help individual students grow academically.
Lampros referenced the earlier training session, in which Medley said that the performance of one or two students does make a significant difference in a school's proficiency.
She said a major goal is to address a 50 percent difference in scoring for minority and exceptional education students. She added that the scoring gap is a familiar problem in traditional public schools as well.
"The gap is very large, and that has to be addressed," she said.
Lampros added that the board must make sure that teachers get the necessary materials for instruction, including professional development and training with the Measures of Academic Performance (MAP) and EOG Test Maker assessment programs.
She expressed confidence in Graner's ability to take on the responsibility of making sure the school's teachers have the resources necessary to help test scores improve.
"We're a unit, and I think we'll see under Wes' guidance that they will be a unit working together," she said.
Board members commented on the importance of instruction with integration of the arts, but also emphasized the immediate importance of academic growth.
"This is not negating the mission of the school," Lampros said.
Graner agreed, saying that at a point where test scores must improve for the school to remain open, academic performance is the main priority.
"You can't shy away from the fact that the state's going to judge us by these numbers," Graner said.
Contact Hannah Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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