Board of education approves contract for driving school

Wil Petty Staff Writer

September 12, 2013

The Ashe County Board of Education voted unanimously to award a contract to the North Carolina Driving School for continuing the driver’s education program in the county.

Phyllis Yates, associate superintendent of business and operations, said the district wanted to sign a one-year contract to make sure the company is the right fit, but that state allocations also dictated the one year contract.

“Every year, the amount from the state’s budget for driver’s ed that we’ve been getting has been decreasing,” Yates said during the meeting.

Two bids were secured by the county, one from NCDS and another from Mountain Professionals. Yates recommended NCDS because they did not charge an additional $20 student fee.

“The best part (of choosing NCDS) is we will not have to charge our students anything,” she said.

The driving school, based in Gastonia is a turn-key operation. The school will provide the cars and offer contracts to those already affiliated with Ashe County’s driver’s education program.

Dr. Todd Holden, Ashe County Schools superintendent, thanked the board for its unanimous consent and addressed the rumors of the school deciding this in order to make a profit.

“There had been a misconception that we were doing this to try and make money for the system,” he said. “It’s the total opposite. We were doing this trying to save students from having to pay.”

Holden also brought up the possibility of using social media, such as Facebook, as a means of getting information out about what the school system is doing.

“We are just looking at it,” he said. “We have a lot of rumor mills going on out there with social media.”

Holden said he could see the good and bad of having a page for the county, but saw the idea as a way to put information out to the public.

Also discussed was the Smarter Balanced testing, a new form of testing that mixes the use of technology with skills learned in the classroom.

Blue Ridge Elementary School was a pilot school for the Smarter Balanced assessment tests. The school was tested in third grade mathematics and fifth grade English.

“The Smarter Balance assessment is the new assessment that was supposed to come along with Common Core,” Callie Grubb, principal of Blue Ridge Elementary said.

The program is supposed to be implemented in time for the 2014-15 school year, but there are still talks with the state General Assembly and Board of Education that could delay it. Other county schools are adding assessments this year.

The assessments are not only testing skills in math and English, but a student’s ability using a computer as well.

“For those students who do not have computers at home, they are not used to using computers without the mouse,” Grubb said. “With our laptops, which only have the track pad, we didn’t feel it was fair to give them a laptop when they were being exposed to a pilot test.”

A critical concern for the assessments is the lack of equipment the schools have to handle testing an entire school.

“I can show kids all day how to plot that geometric shape on a graph, but until they actually get the mouse in their hand to do it, then it’s a different ball game,” said Cathy Gentry, technology teacher for Blue Ridge Elementary.

The next board meeting will take place at the Annex 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7.

In other action taken by the board:

• The board recognized Mountain View Elementary School as a Title I Reward School and county bus drivers who had perfect attendance last year.

• The board approved overnight trips for the Ashe County High School JROTC to go to the Lost Sea in Sweetwater, Tenn. and the Ashe County Show Choir to attend the Gardner-Webb Choral Clinic in Boiling Springs.

• The board discussed having a potential “One-stop shop” contract for background checks, collections and drug tests for both students and teachers.

• On Sept. 25 Ashe County will host the Region 7 North Carolina School Boards District Meeting. The region covers 14 counties in the Northwestern part of the state.

• Board members Polly Jones, Dr. Lee Beckworth, Terry Williams, vice chairman C.B. Jones and chairman Charlie King, as well as Superintendent Dr. Ernest “Todd” Holden were in attendance.