STARS Making Transition
As May’s end-of-grade tests draw closer, the STARS charter school board continues to get organized.
In the last month, the school has seen the departure of two board members, a change in financial accounting and the beginning of intensive measures to help students prepare for testing.
Board treasurer Bonnie McPeake and O’Linda Gillis, the board’s chairwoman, officially rolled off the board March 15 in compliance with a consent order issued by Superior Court Judge James M. Webb last August.
During a regular meeting March 17, the board elected Sandy Lampros as the new chairwoman and Paul Davis Jr. as the new treasurer.
The board also announced that the school’s finances will be now be overseen by Tom Williams, of Acadia Northstar, a North Carolina financial consulting firm that specializes in charter school finances.
Previously, the school’s finances were overseen by school finance officer Barbara Stewart and local accountant Pat Shenkle, of Sandhills Accounting Services. The switch came after Stewart announced that she would resign from the position in February.
STARS principal Wes Graner said Thursday that Stewart did not provide a reason for the resignation and described the switch in accounting firms as a “weird opportunity” that happened mid-year. He added that he had enjoyed working with Stewart and Shenkle, but the switch provided an easier transition at this point in the year.
“With that person being gone, you either have to find someone new to train, or you can change and go on with a different firm that can do all of that for you,” Graner said.
Last week, Sandy Lampros said that Acadia was a thorough service that would place all financial operations “under one umbrella” and streamline the school’s accounting processes.
STARS previously used Acadia’s services before hiring Stewart and Shenkle a few years ago, but neither Lampros nor Graner knew why the school made the switch.
“[Acadia] was successful then and has a great reputation,” Lampros said. “They’re familiar with bylaws and enforcing everything related to charter schools.”
The Academy of Moore County also uses Acadia for its financial services.
As the new chairwoman, Lampros proposed that the board create new committees to address the recent changes and reorganize in a way that lets each member know his or her role on the board.
“We are there to help the school follow policy,” Lampros said. “Micromanagement is not what the board needs to be doing.”
New member Mia Lorenz will be the board’s parent liaison and work with parents over issues that cannot be resolved by either the principal or staff.
Mike McLellan will serve on the budget committee along with Davis to keep track of financial transactions and maintain an up-to-date budget.
Davis will also be in charge of a board governance committee along with members Steven George and Linda Tableman.
The committee will work on the school’s bylaws and address operating policies at the school.
Tableman will also be the board’s human resources point person to ensure that the board is conforming to legally required standards, as well as the head of the theater arts committee that will make sure that all necessary art programs are in place at the school.
The board has also seen teachers and students make great strides in the homestretch toward end-of-grade tests.
To remain open for an additional year, the school must either have at least 60 percent of its students meeting proficiency or meet its expected academic growth goals on end-of-grade (EOG) tests.
Tutoring programs are now available after school for students in grades three through eight, along with one-on-one tutoring for students during school in some grades. An EOG prep camp is also scheduled to start after students return from the Easter holiday as well.
Graner said the tutoring programs have gone well so far and that he is really proud of his staff for stepping up to help every student get prepared.
“It’s really just trying to help anyone who needs the help to fill in any gaps we may have,” Graner said. “[Teachers and students] have been burning it pretty hard for about two or three weeks now. I’m just happy that so many people are trying to help.”
The board has also decided that members will help participate in the EOG testing process by volunteering to be proctors during the testing.
“I’m really glad that everyone agreed to do it,” Lampros said. “We really want to support the teachers and be there for them in that way.”
Lampros said that the progress she and other board members have seen over the past few weeks has given her confidence that students will perform well on the tests and STARS will have the chance to move past all of the drama the school has seen over the past year.
“We’re really on the road,” she said. “It’s a good board. It’s a good administration, and we have great teachers. This has been a tough year for everybody.”
Contact Hannah Sharpe at email@example.com.
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