WEST JEFFERSON — Accomplishments of Ashe students and teachers were recognized by the county board of education during its regular monthly meeting in the Ashe County High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4.

Prior to the board meeting, teachers, parents and students convened in the high school commons area for a reception, featuring food and desserts, and an old-time music trio featuring Ashe County Board of Education member Lee Beckworth, his son Josh and daughter Sarah.

Musical performances continued into the high school auditorium to open the board of education meeting, with the ACHS Jazz Ensemble rattling off some funky compositions, and the sixth grade Ashe County Middle School Chorus harmonizing through a pair of numbers, including “The Wayfaring Stranger.”

Following the quick concert and the board’s public comment session, a plethora of Ashe County students and teachers were recognized for various awards, honors and accomplishments. Included alongside this story is a list of teacher and student names, and the reasons they were recognized.

Those recognized were announced on-stage and given certificates of achievement, with their picture taken while holding the certificate.

Board member Keith McClure was absent from the meeting due to a family emergency, with the other four members and Ashe County School Superintendent Phyllis Yates seated on the right side of the auditorium stage. In the audience were about 20 people, including Ashe teachers who stayed for the board’s business session.

During public comment, a Pond Mountain father approached the board and said he was concerned about equal transportation opportunity for his daughter, whose bus driver has been unable to make the drive to Pond Mountain during wintry weather, and when the driver can make it up the mountain, his daughter spends two hours on the bus on the way to and coming from school. The board said they would investigate the matter and respond at its next meeting.

Ashe County Arts Council Program Director Rebecca Williams also appeared before the board during public comment, handing out the arts council’s spring programming list.

Personnel recommendations from ACS HR Director Lesia Goodman were approved by the board 4-0, as was a resolution supporting local control of the school calendar, which Yates explained would assist local elected state representatives pass a bill to allow counties in western North Carolina more control in handling and scheduling around snow days.

On the subject of the school calendar, Yates updated the board on the remainder of the 2019 school year. So far, ACS has cancelled 12 days of school in the 2018-19 school year, Yates said. If no more school days are missed, spring break will not be affected, nor will high school graduation.

The last thing Yates said she wanted to do in case of more missed school is take days off spring break, but she said she would schedule school on Saturdays if in dire straits. According to Yates, the superintendents from Watauga, Avery and Ashe met with N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock) Monday to discuss enacting flexible school calendars for High Country school systems.

Ashe County Schools Auditor Mike Wike was at the board’s meeting to present the 2017-18 ACS financial audit, in which a change from the state in schools’ post-employment insurance policies resulted in a -$20 million balance, which Wike assured the board was not as frightening a number as it appeared to be.

The board considered revisions to ACS attendance policy, which presently allows students to miss 10 days of school per semester. At the recommendation of faculty, the board is considering slimming down the maximum number unexcused absences to 6 school days.

ACS Maintenance Director Jerry Baker updated the board on a project to replace some 159 windows at the high school in phases, and ACS Career Technical Education Director Joallen Lowder presented the February CTE Month schedule to the board.

Large-scale plans for the new Ashe County Middle School are being finalized by the architect, and the project will be put out for bid thereafter, Yates said.

As of Monday night, Ashe Early College received 76 student applications, including 3 homeschoolers, according to Yates. Yates said she wants no more than 105 students to attend the early college next year, but the county needs at least 100 students enrolled to keep the principal’s salary paid for by the state.

“We’re very tickled about the numbers who have applied,” Yates said.

During superintendent comments, Yates said Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference & Retreat Center, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Laurel Springs, had contacted her about a $75,000 grant the camp had received, with $25,000 of the grant allocated as credit for Ashe County Schools to spend at the facilities in whatever way the school system saw fit during the next 5 years. The other $50,000 was split between Allegheny and Wilkes counties schools, according to Yates.

The spelling bee is in the ACHS Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, and February is Career Technical Education Month in schools across the county, Yates said. Bus Driver Appreciation Week is Feb. 11-15, according to Yates.

The school board went to recess at 8:54 p.m. before reconvening for a closed session for the purpose of considering a personnel action that involved an officer or employee of the school board, as well as a real estate matter.

The next meeting of the Ashe County Board of Education will be in the ACS Central Support Annex on South Street in Jefferson at 7 p.m. Monday, March 4.

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