Board discuss assistant, driver’s ed cuts

By Eva Queen -

Kim Morrison, speaking to the board about the ESL program.

Earlier this week the Mount Airy Board of Education learned five of the city’s teacher assistant positions could be eliminated as a result of state funding cuts for assistants.

Specifically, all of the teacher assistant jobs could be cut from first and second grade levels at B.H.Tharrington if a state senate proposal is passed by the General Assembly.

The senate is proposing a budget cut to school funding, where it’s estimated the cuts could affect nearly 8,500 teacher assistants across the state. The cuts would phase out the teacher assistants over the next two school years, ending in 2017.

In the 2015-16 school year this cut would eliminate 1,760 positions.

In the 2016-17 school year 5,062 TA’s would be cut.

“With such huge cuts, we would be forced to eliminate positions or make significant reductions in hours for our employees,” Greg Little, superintendent for Mount Airy City Schools, told board members Tuesday.

The 22 teacher assistant remaining after the cut would be placed in kindergarten classes and in exceptional children’s classes throughout the school system.

“In the event the state makes those drastic cuts, we are going to try to do everything we can to keep our teacher assistants with us,” said Bryan Taylor, assistant superintendent for Mount Airy City Schools.

“It is my hope the General Assembly recognizes the importance of teacher assistants and the role they play in the classroom,” added Little.

Within the same budget proposal a change to the budget for funding for the driver’s education program in public schools would result in the programs being discontinued in public high schools, with the programs being transferred to 58 community colleges. The proposal would also allow parents to instruct their children for driver’s education.

If the classes would move to community colleges, students would have to pay full cost for the program, costing around $300 per student.

If the General Assembly decides to turn the responsibility over to parents, the DMV would also make changes. Students taking the driver’s test will be required to score a higher level than before, as well as an increase in hours spent driving with the parents.

The city’s high school does not have another driver’s education class scheduled until January, so the board did not need to take any immediate action for this program.

However Superintendent Dr. Greg Little stated that the school system does have funds set aside it intended to use for a new driver’s education car and that officials would be willing to put that money into operating the program if needed.

In other business, the board:

– Learned the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was approved for use at the high school.

Students will be able to bring their own Internet-capable device to use on the filtered school network during allotted times in the classroom.

Right now the high school has about one electronic device for every two students. Officials hope BYOD will fill the void in numbers of electronics available to students.

BYOD is a pilot program and will be reviewed by the board to make changes as needed.

– Heard a report from Kim Morrison, director of curriculum and instruction, who updated the board on a lead ESL teacher who would rotate throughout the four schools, Marie Nyland.

Nyland will devote one day a week to each school to help train and coach the ESL teams.

– Heard a report from Taylor regarding several repair projects under way, with completion expected shortly after the beginning of the school year. Those were: New gym lights for the middle school; new baseball lighting at the Mount Airy High School; and a new cooling tower installed at B.H. Tharrington.

– Heard from Taylor regarding a proposed a policy change in the student handbook regarding the high school attendance policy which would mean students are to be required, for any periods missed during the school day, regardless of the time spent at school that day-present a note, for an excused absence during that period.

– Heard a recommendation from Dr. Sandy George for the graduation requirement for personal finance be discontinued.

The board also announced several hires for the school system. They are: David Kidd, a teacher at the middle school; Abby Gallimore, a teacher at the high school; Elaine Elvira Correa-Castro as a teacher at Tharrington; Michelle Wertman as a teacher at Jones Elementary; and David Puckett as a custodian at Jones.

Kim Morrison, speaking to the board about the ESL program. Morrison, speaking to the board about the ESL program.

By Eva Queen

Reach Eva Queen at (336) 415-4739 or

Reach Eva Queen at (336) 415-4739 or

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