One Chatham Strategic Plan receives final approval from school board

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PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the final draft of the One Chatham Strategic Plan at its meeting Monday night.

The plan outlines five key priorities for the district in the next five years: curriculum & innovation; student health & safety; faculty & staff; facilities & infrastructure and communication & information sharing.

CCS Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson told the News + Record the main goal of the plan was to create equity across the district, regardless of geography. He said socioeconomic and cultural barriers within the county shouldn’t limit access to quality education and resources.

“As one community, we want to provide the best education for every child,” Jackson said in an interview prior to Monday’s meeting. “One Chatham is a strategic overlay, it’s not everything we are going to do as a district over the next five years.”

Board members approved the final plan without raising questions.

CCS Public Information Officer Nancy Wykle told board members the plan will be formally introduced to the public at the district’s convocation event on Aug. 24. She said the district is planning a video announcement, social media push and introduction of a new Instagram account to promote the priorities of the plan.

Amanda Moran, CCS assistant superintendent for academic services & instructional support, said many stakeholders in the community are already aware of the One Chatham plan because of engagement efforts prior to its final approval.

Previous editions of the plan were edited based on feedback from superintendent listening tour sessions and community, staff and parent surveys. The district also hosted strategic plan focus groups, working groups, a One Chatham community engagement event and meetings with district leadership teams.

“Even though this is the final draft, we want to keep in mind that this is a living and breathing document,” Moran told CCS board members, who met at George Moses Horton Middle School. “We want this to continue to grow over the next five years.”

Moran said the rollout of the final plan will also include a sketched infographic by Jordan-Matthews High School teacher Wendi Pillars to present a one-page visual of the plan for community members.

Other business

The board approved a number of other items at its meeting Monday, including updates to its federal grant recipient schools, contracts for the upcoming school year and a new mural.

• Ahead of the start of the school year on Aug. 29, the board heard an enrollment update presented by Moran. She showed the most recent counts of students at each school in the district. She said the district is currently outpacing enrollment projections for the upcoming school year.

The district originally projected just over 8,600 students for the upcoming school year, but projections show the district has more than 9,000 students. Those differences may impact state funding allotments to the district. CCS is 486 students over projection and has a 239-student difference between state funding allotment and CCS projections. Moran said that may lead to reconfiguring class sizes to ensure the district is meeting state requirements. Those reconfigurations and changes will be made 10 days after the start of the school year when enrollment officially closes.

• The board also heard an update on contracts with its substitute teacher supplier, ESS.

“In an ongoing effort to mitigate staffing shortages and extra duties being required of certified staff, the district has evaluated a full-service substitute program, ESS, as a possible solution,” said Dr. Kelly Batten, CCS assistant superintendent for human resources.

The district currently contracts about 130 substitutes through ESS with an additional 58 substitutes who are fully trained and prepared if the district needs them throughout the school year. This fills more than 90% of the district’s substitute needs, according to Batten. He said ESS does charge a markup rate for its substitutes of about 34%, but the district still saves money with this service because it eliminates the constant onboarding and training of substitutes, Social Security taxes on wages earned, dealing with unemployment claims and eliminating the cost of absence management substitute software.

• The district updated its list of federal grant recipients, including Title I schools. For the 2022-23 school year, CCS has an allotment of $2.1 million, which is an increase of approximately $103,000 from the previous school year. Federal grants are meant to supplement services provided by the district.

Data from the district showing the free and reduced lunch needs determined which school were given Title I grant funding, which provides financial assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure all children meet state academic standards. The list of schools identified changed from the previous school year. CCS offers Title I grants to all schools with more than 40% of students receiving free and reduced lunch.

The identified Title I schools are Bennett School, Bonlee School, Chatham Middle School, J.S. Waters School, Moncure School, Siler City Elementary, Silk Hope School and Virginia Cross Elementary.

• CCS approved its contracts with third-party services for janitorial and transportation services. The district will continue to utilize the Budd Group for janitorial services. Chris Blice, CCS assistant superintendent for operations, said this contract saves the district money because it has struggled to hire its own custodial staff in recent years. Blice said the contract saves about $13,000 for the year. The not-to-exceed dollar amount of approximately $1.1 million contract includes a maximum of 25 custodial positions. Blice said the district was unlikely to spend the full dollar amount or use all available positions.

The district also contracted services with T&L Transportation, which offers transit at a cost of $0.87 per mile. The district sent requests for proposals, with T&L providing the lowest cost of use for all attendance zones in the district.

• George Moses Horton Middle School will begin work on a new mural commemorating Black trailblazers from Chatham County. The board unanimously approved an artist-in-residence program in collaboration with the Community Remembrance Coalition-Chatham.

The mural will be fully funded by CRC-C and designed by Durham artist David Wilson in collaboration with students of Horton Middle. The 18-foot by 26-foot mural is expected to be completed by spring 2023. It will feature images of important African-Americans from the county including Reverend Rufus V. Horton, Cordie Glover Leake, Edgar Bland, Geraldine DeGraffenreidt, Lillie Rodgers, Charlie Baldwin Sr. and Isaiah Taylor.

CCS board member Melissa Hlavac was absent from the meeting.

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at brappaport@chathamnr.com or on Twitter @b_rappaport.

Chatham County Schools Board of Education, One Chatham, Chatham County Schools, school enrollment

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