JEFFERSON ― The Ashe County Board of Education met electronically via Zoom Communications Software on June 1 with the meeting available to the public on the Ashe County Public Schools Facebook page.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. and lasted nearly three hours, with a full agenda which included the announcement of the new Ashe County Schools Superintendent selected by the Board.

Vice Chairman Dr. Lee Beckworth moved that the Ashe County BOE elect Dr. Eisa M. Cox as Superintendent of Ashe County Schools for a four year term effective July 1. The vote was unanimous across the board.

Cox joined the meeting to introduce herself and shared some of her credentials and professional background.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the children and the parents and the teachers and administrators and staff of Ashe County community,” Cox said. “I’m looking forward to my family and I coming up there and truly becoming a part of the community.”

Cox is originally from West Virginia and her grandmother was an elementary school principal who worked for 42 years. Her father owned his own business and her mother was a teacher’s aide in a special needs classroom. She and her siblings grew up with a very strong sense of family and community, with high expectations in regard to education.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education at West Virginia University which was in Secondary Education for Health and Science. She has taught science and biology in middle and high schools. She holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and served as an assistant principal at Mooresville High School.

More recently, she earned her doctoral degree from Wingate University in 2016 in Educational Leadership and her dissertation was on the profile of a digital superintendent.

For the past seven years Cox has been with the Rowan-Salisbury school district. She first served as the executive director of Secondary Education and most recently as executive director of Programs where she has overseen exceptional children, the academically gifted, federal programs and several large departments.

Cox has been married to her husband, Kevin, for almost 22 years and together they have two sons, Spencer and Wyatt.

“Our family looks forward to coming to Ashe County for you to get to know us and for us to get to know you,” Cox said.

Prior to the announcement about Cox, Beckworth described the emotions the board is facing while welcoming a new superintendent and saying farewell to the current superintendent as she prepares to retire in July.

“We are trying to balance the excitement, the apprehension, the anticipation and the hope of what a new superintendent might bring and might add to our school system’s success, with the sadness and loss and dread and finality of the fact that we are soon to lose one of the finest members of our school family that we have ever had,” Beckworth said. “I have said on several occasions and am sincere in saying that this school system will never have another employee that has been more dedicated to Ashe County Schools than Superintendent (Phyllis) Yates.”

Also during the meeting, Barbara Heufel, third grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School was recognized as one of 19 teachers from across the state who received the prestigious Kenan Fellowship through NC State University.

The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership was founded in 2000 and addresses the critical need for high-quality professional development for educators, and is the largest (science, technology, engineering and math) STEM-focused teacher leadership program in North Carolina.

“I’m real honored to represent Ashe County as the 2020/21 Kenan Fellow, throughout the next year I’m going to be working with North Carolina christmas tree farmers through my partnership,” Heufel said. “And I will be learning all about the North Carolina christmas tree industry, all aspects of it and creating a digital agricultural Ag Mag that will be available for all teachers and students to use in the classroom.”

Kenan Fellows will allow Heufel to have 80 hours of professional development with an internship with Christmas tree farmers, and Heufel said she can’t wait to share the knowledge she gains with teachers and students in Ashe County.

Also recognized during the meeting county employees who were chosen for demonstrating excellence for the 2020/21 school year. Those recognized were Teacher of the Year for ACS Danny Eldreth, Beginning Teacher of the Year Dalton Lewis, Supervisory Support Staff Employee of the Year Lynette Stallings and Classified Employee of the Year Elaine May.

Ashe County High School Athletic Director David Koontz addressed the board about waiving the EKG requirements for student athletes.

According to Koontz, the state board granted a one year extension on physicals for student athletes.

After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to waive the requirement.

Curriculum Director Julie Taylor discussed plans for summer learning and re-entry of remote learning.

Taylor said they will re-write the current remote learning plan and make it stronger by working on it in June and July. The plan is due July 20 and the five remote days are in the calendar which is short-term and then a long-term plan if schools are unable to resume face-to-face in the fall and in case of another wave of outbreaks.of school closures occurs due to another outbreak.

“The basic skeleton of our plan that is in place works, we just need to beef it up,” Taylor said.

Taylor said right now they are in the process of forming the task force that will be working on the proposed plan.

A template will be provided by the state but the template would be filled in according to the individual needs of each county.

She said one thing that concerned teachers was the drop in participation by students when the state proposed they had to hold students harmless for their grades. It has also been a challenge for teachers to get parents to participate in their child’s remote learning as well.

Taylor said even when packets were provided by teachers, some children still didn’t participate. She also understands that COVID-19 has been straining on families and parents who work full-time and have several children experience difficulties when trying to help their children with remote learning in addition to other stressors.

Before adjourning, the board voted for the next meeting to be held on June 29 at 6 p.m.

The full video of this meeting can be accessed on the school system’s Facebook page @Ashe County Public Schools.

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