New STARS Board Looks to Move Forward
The new STARS board of directors wants to hit the ground running in the new school year as it tries to move forward.
The board met in the STARS multi-purpose room Friday to regroup and determine what steps it needs to take to maintain transparency as a board and to preserve the school's charter by implementing a plan to improve end-of-grade test scores this year.
The meeting was the first since Superior Court Judge James Webb issued a consent order restructuring the board Aug. 19. Under that order, Caroline Eddy, Linda Tableman, Rose Highland-Sharpe and Peter Brownback were named to the board to replace three members who rotated out of their positions and to fill a vacant position.
The order also reinstated parent representative Steven George and teacher representative Cindy Buchan to their positions and made Larry Graham president of the board.
On Friday, Graham said Highland-Sharpe and Brownback declined to serve on the board and that Webb will have to appoint two new members.
Attorneys Tom Van Camp, of Van Camp, Meacham and Newman, and John Branch, of Shanahan Law Group, were present to assist the board in making sure that the meeting was held in compliance with the N.C. Department of Instruction and the consent order.
Throughout the meeting, board members reiterated that they want to go by the book as they seek to move past the summer's controversy surrounding board conduct, activities at the school and test scores.
"Fellow board members, we want to do this exactly right," Graham said. "There's nothing being hid in this board of directors. There never has been."
Test scores were on the minds of each board member as they discussed future agenda items for the board's annual meeting.
STARS must improve its end-of-grade test scores this year to keep its charter.
"We have to hit the ground running in order to address some issues and bear some fruit down the road," Graham said.
Buchan stressed that a charter school, unlike a public school, can miss proficiency by only a few percentage points and still be shut down by the State Board of Education.
Last year, STARS missed proficiency by 2.2 percentage points.
STARS principal Sue Kemple told the board that she has already began assembling a committee of teachers and parents to help students start preparing for end-of-grade tests this fall.
The board is also working with Kemple and her staff to complete a self-evaluation study as a part of the charter renewal process, which will begin in October.
The board also voted to approve the distribution of grant funds for teacher salaries.
Three teachers were not paid last Wednesday because the grant funds were not approved at the time, according to Graham. He said that the board learned that it needed to approve the grants a week before Wednesday's payroll.
Some teachers questioned the need for board approval to use the funds, since the school has received state grants without board approval in the past.
Board member Bonnie McPeake said that even though grants have been submitted to and approved by the state in the past, the board's approval is a formality that allows the board to oversee where funds are going.
"We are following policy and procedure," she said. "No matter how it's been done in the past, we are moving forward and doing it correctly."
The board also discussed the possibility of implementing a new school lunch program at the school.
Kemple submitted rates from two companies she has consulted as potential food distributors, but she recommended that the board consider a new proposal from George.
Kemple told the board that the school has at least 72 students out of 276 enrolled who cannot afford to pay for lunch each day and stressed that the school needs an affordable program that would provide nutritious meals to students.
George, along with his wife and other volunteers, were providing a school lunch program for students last year until the Moore County Health Department and the board asked George to stop serving meals, citing concerns over food preparation.
George said that at the time, no one communicated with him about the concerns or the health department's investigation. He also said that once he was told to shut down the meal program, he never had a chance to address the concerns raised.
The health department also never came to the school to investigate the program.
McPeake also cited previously raised concerns about where the money collected for school lunch was going. She stressed that any money collected for meals must go through the school, not volunteers.
George said that the program is structured to be self-sustaining, so that the money collected only funds meal preparation. He added that the program originally began as a fundraiser for the STARS PTO.
Graham said that no matter what plan the board chooses, a clear accounting and money trail will be present in the program.
The board ultimately decided to consider George's proposal along with the two other options and asked that Cindy Davis, deputy health director, visit the school to review its facilities for a potential food program.
Clearing Up Bylaws
The board also moved the date of its annual meeting back to Oct. 12 due to scheduling conflicts and so that the board could amend its bylaws to clarify language
Van Camp said that in order to follow correct procedure for amending its bylaws, the board would have to reschedule its annual meeting in order to submit its suggested amendments at least 30 days before the meeting.
The board is considering amendments that will clarify term limits and also define the complete position of the teacher representative.
In making these amendments, the board hopes to address vague language that was the source of disagreement and division among members of the board over the summer.
The board will vote on new officers and set goals for the year ahead at its annual meeting, set for 4 p.m. Oct. 12.
McPeake suggested that the board hold another special meeting before its annual meeting to determine an immediate course of action for improving end-of-grade test scores and to implement a food program at the school. The board scheduled that meeting for 4 p.m. Sept. 15 in the STARS multi-purpose room.
Contact Hannah Sharpe at email@example.com.
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