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News Education Board of Education votes on budget and MEC athletics

School board member Stephanie McCall questions Angie Cook about budget.During Tuesday’s continued meeting of the September Board of Education meeting, board members unanimously voted to adopt a board policy, which will become effective in the 2012/2013 school year. The policy will ultimately prevent Macon Early College (MEC) students from participating in sports at Franklin High School (FHS).

After the Macon County School system received notification from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) that there would be a realignment for 2013-2017, Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman charged personnel director Dan Moore with contacting school systems in North Carolina who are in similar situations.

According to the realignment, if FHS continued to allow students from MEC to participate in sports for the 12/13 school year, FHS would have to remain a 3A school, causing them to compete against larger school in athletics. To reflect the realignment, if FHS adopted a board policy to prevent MEC students from participating in FHS athletics, FHS’s student population would decrease by 146 (the number of total students enrolled at MEC) allowing FHS to go down a division and begin competing against 2A schools.

Moore contacted 20 North Carolina school districts similar in size compared to Macon County to consult with them about allowing early college students to participate in area high school sports. Of the 20 Moore contacted, 15 school districts currently prohibit their respective early college students from participating in another school’s athletics. “I would recommend that the board adopts the policy to allow FHS to fairly compete against schools of similar student size,” said Moore of the policy. The board voted to adopt.

Football stands to be the sport most effected by the policy because it is the only sport that determines playoff games and brackets due to the size of the student body. Although Moore believes that preventing MEC students from continuing to participate in FHS sports will allow the Panthers to fairly compete against other schools during the play-offs, he explained that the change will not give the Panthers an unfair advantage either. “There is no illusion that we will dominate the 2A,” said Moore, “We would just be competing against schools similar to our size who would also be in the top 25 percentile of the 2A division.

Board member Gary Shields noted that his decision to adopt the policy was irrelevant to the effect it would have on football. “To me it’s a fairness issue,” noted Shields. “We have always told students at Nantahala and Highlands that if they wanted to play sports at Franklin, they had to attend the high school, MEC shouldn’t be any different.”

Board member Jim Breedlove expressed his concern for the three students at MEC who currently participate in sports at FHS. “Is there anything we can do to allow these students to be grandfathered into the policy because they choose to attend MEC under the impression they would be allowed to play sports?” asked Breedlove. According to Moore, if the school board considered the overwhelming majority of students who would be affected, the only fair option was to adopt the policy.

At the request of MEC principal Todd Gibbs, the board agreed to allow the MEC students currently playing sports at FHS to continue throughout the year.

Under the advice of school attorney John Henning Jr., to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, the school board needed to agree to adopt a board policy which states that students are limited to the athletics within the school to which they are assigned.

Budget questions

Board members used the continued meeting to ask questions of Angie Cook, Head of the Finance Department, regarding the school’s current budget. With so many cuts being handed down to school systems from the state, board members expressed concerns of how the current budget might influence future years, if the economy doesn’t begin to improve.

Cook explained that 75 percent of the school’s budget is directly attributed to state funding. This year alone, Macon County received a nearly $1.2 million reversion mandate, which is expected to increase by an additional 40 percent next year. The school is becoming increasingly more reliant on local funds to handle the necessary day-to-day operations of the school system.

Board member Stephanie McCall expressed her concerns about how the current budget allocates funding to individual schools within the district. According to Cook, the library funding is based on a per child allotment of $10 per child to be applied toward the purchase of books for each individual school.

McCall raised the question of how K-12 schools are influenced by that formula because although they may have the same size student body as other schools in the district, the special infrastructure of the school and varying grade range makes it more difficult for the library to adequately use the funding to meet the needs of all students. “Highlands may have the same number of students, but the wide-range of grades makes it a completely different situation,”noted McCall, “The reading material is less interchangeable than it is at let’s say, Macon Middle.”

Cook agreed with McCall’s statement and noted that since she has handled the school’s budget no one has raised similar concerns and it was definitely something that needed to be addressed in the future. Brigman commended Mc- Call on her observation and agreed to evaluate options to meet the specific needs of each school in the county.

Breedlove brought to the board’s attention the seemingly excessive expenditures allocated to contracted services which are conducted outside of existing school system personnel. Cook explained that the majority of the services that are contracted out are done so due to state mandates, like the $123,000 annual contract with Microsoft. Technology contracts like Microsoft are required. Breedlove noted that the board should adopt the current budget resolution, but because of the number of probable cuts yet to come in the following school year, it is pertinent that the board evaluates the budget at each meeting to prevent unnecessary expenditures.

The board discussed the fate of the timber funds, which is currently in limbo due to a state hold on the reauthorization of the allotment formula. Brigman informed the board that he has been in contact with local and state officials urging that the House vote to sustain the current timber fund formal. If the formula was to change, Macon County stands to lose the most funding of any other district in the state. According to Brigman, if the reauthorization is not passed, Macon County will go from receiving between $210,000, to $230,000 annually, to only $30,000, which will drastically affect the entire school system. Brigman noted that he is under the impression that the federal government will likely issue a continuation of the reauthorization, which will be in the school system’s favor.

Brigman informed the board that the second training session for the Lindamood Bell Learning Process will be completed by the end of the week and invited board members to visit the training facility. McCall told the board that she had been approached by teachers who are enjoying the program and that teachers continue to rave about the success and excitement of the program.


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