During its regular school board meeting Monday night, Sampson County Board of Education members voted to put an end to high school graduation projects and to offer increased supplements for the system’s band instructors.
After weighing the pros and cons during last week’s work session, school board members approved the elimination of high school graduation projects starting this school year.
School board chairman Telfair Simpson explained that school officials, upon comparing the objectives of the new Common Core curriculum and the objectives of the graduation projects, concluded that the work students are doing in the new curriculum eliminated the need for graduation projects.
“We’ve had great success with graduation projects over the last four or five years,” exiting superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker previously said, “but things have changed with Common Core and the new curriculum. The need for graduation projects isn’t what it once was.”
“I’m probably the biggest advocate for graduation projects,” added assistant superintendent Tommy Macon during the work session, “but the reality is that the curriculum meets most, if not all, of the needs.”
It was also pointed out at last week’s work session that eliminating graduation projects would be a benefit to teachers.
Macon explained that the change would be “a good service to teachers,” noting that the time educators spend working with students on graduation projects could, instead, be spent teaching more of the curriculum.
He added that the system would “not be losing but actually gaining” because of the expected increase in the amount of instruction, an increase that would help students perform better on tests and that would be appreciated by teachers who are evaluated on their students’ performance.
For those reasons, school officials advised that it “would not be prudent to continue,” noted Simpson, as the curriculum and projects would be “redundant” if both were kept.
Simpson then pointed out that two motions needed to be made to implement the change — one waiving board policy 2420 (graduation projects) for the 2013-14 school year and one revising board policy 3460 which previously required graduation projects at the system’s four traditional high schools.
Board member Mary Brown made a motion for both the waiver and revision which school board vice chairwoman Faye Gay seconded.
During last week’s work session Gay, a retired teacher who has judged numerous graduation projects, disagreed with ending those projects, saying that “every child that has done a graduation project says that it is beneficial.”
At the time, she described how the work involved in the project, the lessons in the dangers of procrastinating, and the practice of presenting in front of an audience are all experiences that are beneficial for students to have under their belts before heading off the college or into the workforce.
Following the motions, the school board — board members Sonya Powell and Dewain Sinclair were not present — made a unanimous vote to eliminate graduation projects.
Band teacher supplements
Also approved during the school board meeting as an item on the consent agenda was the opportunity for the county’s band teachers to receive increased supplements.
Back in July, Lenker shared that Sampson County Schools currently offers supplements of $1,540 for its band instructors, an amount that’s at the low end of the spectrum when compared to other similar counties.
During last week’s work session, he explained that the system’s band teachers had been placed on a coach’s pay scale around five years ago, noting that their placement on the scale is at a level three with an experience level of 11.
Based on information provided by the superintendent, this placement is comparable to that of a high school assistant football coach.
Lenker explained that if the board voted in favor of increased supplements for band teachers, the supplements would remain at experience level 11 but that band teachers would be eligible for increased supplement steps based on how active their band program is.
Examples of active participation that the school board previously discussed included offering a summer band camp, participating in local parades and other such community events, and having to go to a set number of competitions in the course of one school year.
Each of the supplement steps would equal about $70, added Lenker, and principals would be required to sign-off on the increased supplements, vouching for their band teacher’s active participation in the school’s band program.
Simpson noted that the county schools have successful band programs because of the band instructors, their hard work, and the many hours spent in practice.
“They need to be compensated,” said Simpson. “Some of the band teachers have been like a revolving door. Maybe this will help keep good band teachers in Sampson County.”
All board members except G.H. Wilson agreed to place the item on the consent agenda for the upcoming meeting.
Previously, when the topic was discussed during the school board’s July work session, Wilson questioned how the county schools would qualify how much time their band teachers are putting into their band program.
When the vote was taken on the consent agenda package Monday night, the vote was 4-1 with Wilson casting the dissenting vote.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.