Stanly school board passes calendars, tech education plan, says goodbye to James

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Education, calendars for the new school year were passed along with plans for career and technical education.

A Change in Calendars

Because of a new state law, school districts like Stanly will be allowed to start their traditional calendars on Aug. 17, which was part of the calendar unanimously passed by the board.

High school students will also finish their fall semesters including finals before the Christmas break, which comes on Dec. 22.

Five extra days of education have been added as remote learning days while the final day of school for students on the traditional calendar will be May 28.

The calendar for the Early College will coincide with the beginning of classes at Stanly Community College on Aug. 10.

After passing the measure, Chairman Melvin Poole said he hopes the schedules stand as passed without changes.

Learning a Career

Mandy Mills, director of Career and Technical Education, made a presentation to the board regarding technical education plans for the upcoming school year.

She said she had to brag about the graduation rates of Stanly students taking technical classes. It was higher than the state average.

Of the 16 North Carolina Career Clusters, 15 of those are available in Stanly County Schools (SCS) with 31 different career pathways and 90 different courses.

Using a state report, Mills said four clusters SCS has identified as the highest need in the region are: architecture and construction, health science, information technology and manufacturing.

Advanced manufacturing classes will be taught next academic year allowing students to get entry-level positions in manufacturing while learning safety processes, along with some robotics, electronics and pneumatics. Students will be able to learn the certified production technician certification. Mills said the hope is to push the manufacturing classes to ninth and 10th grade to allow students in upper grades to take more advanced courses like robotics or drafting.

Students in technical education will also look to earn their WorkKeys certification and additional advanced certifications.

For the first time at SCS, three students have already qualified to participate in a new automotive pre-apprenticeship program which was approved last month. Students will take classes in the first two blocks then work at four locations to learn the various aspects of the industry.

Participating businesses will include a mechanic’s shop, auto parts store and a shop specializing in welding.

Students will also earn money during the apprenticeship and have the opportunity to earn an associates degree from Stanly Community College, with tuition money from the community college waived by the state.

Mills also mentioned the new agricultural program at South Stanly High School, including a new greenhouse. The school will partner with Norwood-based Lucky Clays Farm who will help set up aquaponic and other equipment for the program.

Another program will allow students to earn the Federal Aviation Administration unmanned physical pilot’s license with teachers having been trained this summer for the program.

Albemarle and North Stanly will also have early childhood programs, which Mills said local daycare centers showed a strong interest in volunteering.

In the information technology area, CISCO Networking, computer science and other programs have trained teachers ready to instruct students when interest is there.

Career and technical education programs will also start with students in the fifth grade, allowing students to discover their interests.

The plan was approved unanimously by the board.

Saying Goodbye

Despite possibly needing a special meeting later this month to approve the budget, Tuesday’s meeting was the last regularly scheduled meeting for outgoing superintendent Dr. Jeff James.

Calling it “bittersweet” that he was moving home next month to Iredell County as superintendent, James noted some of the accomplishments of the past two years of SCS, including going from $800,000 in debt to eventually having a fund balance of $1.2 million.

The state comptroller’s office investigated SCS over purchasing procedures, but James said no evidence of financial impropriety was found and the staff was exonerated.

He noted SCS was mentioned several times in a positive light by national media sources, including a public television story on increased security, funded by the quarter-cent sales tax passed during his time as superintendent.

SCS was also featured on CNN for the school nutrition program which in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has to date provided more than 287,000 meals for the children of Stanly, regardless of being an SCS student or not.

James also mentioned the numerous schools who have met or exceeded growth expectations along with schools having improved their growth grades.

The transportation program, he added, went from 79 percent efficiency using $400,000 in local funds to 99.8 percent needing less than $50,000 in local money.

All of the school board members thanked James for his efforts during the board comments session. Board member Anthony Graves said James “had found his calling” as an administrator, adding he was “exceptional.”