Carolyn L. Higgins – contributing writer

Monday night’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Macon County Board of Education had a noticeably lighter air amongst board members, educators and other attendees. Having overcome recent hurdles with the capital outlay budget, the board was ready to approve and implement administrative tasks.

With a few adjustments, the capital outlay plan was amended and unanimously adopted by the board. Some of the updates included $3,500 for outside repairs at Macon Middle School’s Parrish Park and a decision to only purchase a large activity bus at $84,000. New figures are $208,749 for capital outlay and $326,250 for safety and security. That brings the Macon County Schools capital outlay total to $534,999, leaving a cushion of $15,001.

Three programs were renewed for previous vendors providing contract services that have been successful. Those are Intern School Psychologist, Just for Kids Physical Therapy, and Exceptional Children. 

Student Handbooks for 2018-2019 were presented and unanimously approved by the board for Mountain View Intermediate, Nantahala and Union Academy schools. Franklin High School handbook was approved, pending changes to language by Principal Barry Woody to accommodate parking for incoming students previously enrolled in charter schools. 

The updated Macon County 2018-2019 School Strategic Plan received unanimous approval and has been expanded from two goals to three. 

“This particular plan will guide our decision-making for the next few years and provide a framework for principals and teachers to work with as they deal with problems and decisions as they arise,” said superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “This plan was developed with the help of Nancy Cantrell and the strategic planning committee comprised of a business advisory representative, principals and teachers.”

Nancy Cantrell, Director of Exceptional Children, facilitated getting the plan before the committee for their feedback.

“We got the committee together, presented a draft plan, and explained the purpose of the strategic plan,” said Cantrell. “They all agreed that they felt this covered all the things that were necessary, and this is what we would like to present to you.”

Baldwin noted a slight change in the mission statement. It now reads: “Provide an education that leads to productive citizenship and lifelong learning.

“There were only two goals on the previous plan. This does a better job of clarifying exactly what we would like to do,” said Baldwin. 

The expanded goals are:

Goal 1: MCS will prepare all students for further education, a career and productive citizenship.

Goal 2: MCS will provide students with the best possible educational experience through a wide range of opportunities offered by the highest quality staff.

Goal 3: MCS will provide its students and staff with modern, high quality, safe learning environments.

Providing high quality educational technology to students; developing sustained communication and culture aligned student success collaborative planning partnerships with all community stakeholders; and operating modern, secure facilities were some of the notable strategies defined in the goals.

In line with the strategies for collaborative partnering, Jennifer Love, STEM Coordinator, presented an update on the Macon STEM Innovation Station. Love will revisit with the Macon County Board of Commissioners to assess their financial commitment to the Mountain View Intermediate School Porter’s Creek Outdoor Classroom Restoration project. The outdoor classroom was built in 2012 with support of the commissioners and other entities, including the Coweeta LTER Schoolyard Program. Love requested approval from the BOE to pursue funding and/or opportunities in kind from various entities including Lewis Penland, Mainstream Conservation Trust, parents and teachers, Duke Energy and Western Carolina University. 

Various funds and physical assistance have already been requested of various entities for stream restoration, including planting trees, maintaining the mulched pathway and trail, creating various gardens and activities to sustain a wetland habitat.  

Love also updated the board on other activities, including efforts to relocate the robotics program that Tektone still wants to support but doesn’t have the space, interest by the Macon County Airport and local citizens to create an aviation program that may be best suited as a drone program, and research into as many feasible innovative opportunities as possible to support classroom, after school and field trip education. A proposal from Tommy Jenkins and the Economic Development Commission to offer space at the Business Industrial Park Incubator was also presented.

STEM is often defined as Science, Engineering, Technology and Math.

“I like to emphasize Strategies Engaging Minds,” said Love.

The board approved Love’s continued pursuit of funding and both County Attorney John Henning, Jr. and Cantrell wanted to ensure Love incorporates proper ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act] requirements into all projects and continues to update the board.

As the transportation needs for various activities are being formalized, including the purchase of an activity bus, the board agreed to continue discussions of proposed school-sponsored trips at the Aug. 20, meeting.