School board salutes outgoing member

GARY CUNARD, Times Publisher

School board salutes outgoing member

LOUISBURG -- The Franklin County Board of Education worked its way through a routine agenda Monday night and also took time out to honor Gil Johnson, a long-time board member who will be leaving the board in December.

Johnson, currently vice chair of the board, has served on the school board since 2005 and has been actively involved during his tenure.

"It has been a pleasure to serve with such a fine board," Johnson said, holding the plaque that board chair Dr. Elizabeth Keith had just presented to him
He lauded the board for "never falling into dysfunction" and always "keeping the children in mind."

"Keep up the good work," he said, adding that he's planning to do a little more fishing and travel in his spare time.

Johnson, a retired air traffic controller, also works part-time training new controllers.

Johnson was "very helpful" to me when I was a new board member, said Debra Brodie. "I'll always remember your advice and kindness."

"Thank you for stepping up -- for your service," added board member Bernard Hall.

"You've always put the children of the district first," added fellow board member Paige Sayles. "And you've always looked out for all of the staff."

School Supt. Rhonda Schuhler noted that she has been able to work with the board well during her more than four years at Franklin County schools.

"You were an integral part of that," she said.

"Job well done," added fellow board member Tommy Piper who was on speaker phone because he was unable to attend Monday's meeting. "Congratulations."

Johnson will be replaced by Meghan Jordan of Youngsville after she is sworn in during the December meeting. She defeated Johnson in the May Primary Election.

After saluting Johnson, the board turned to a list of relatively routine business items including approving minor changes to the Teacher Support Plan to meet state requirements.

The board also approved the StudentAccess program that will allow students, who must be approved in advance, to electronically access many items in the Franklin County Library system from their computers. The agreement stipulates that the library will provide students with "access to electronic books, e-books, e-audio, and e-video reading programs and other important educational programs during out-of-school time."

Dr. Lela Baldwin, chief academic officer, told the board that now that the program has been approved, school officials will begin having students complete the required paperwork with an eye toward launching the program in mid-January.

The school board also put its stamp of approval on an NC Star plan for Franklinton Middle School, which was designated as "low performing" in the recent state grading system. The plan lists specific target areas which are to be the focus of teachers and staff -- and requires that the school team meet twice a month to review progress.

"It's all designed for us to be better," said FMS Principal David Averette.

"The district is doing the same thing for us," he said, adding that the state no longer provides extra assistance to help schools improve performance.

The school board also approved a $200,000 contract to install replacement LED lighting at Terrell Lane Middle School as part of the district's on-going energy conservation effort.

Breedlove Electric, Inc., of Henderson was the lowest of three bidders for the project which will be done after school and weekends so as not to disrupt classes.

The other bidders were Raymond Electric at $270,177 and ACS Electric at $276,639.

The work is expected to be completed by March, 2019.

The board also got an update from Dr. Schuhler on her goal of visiting all the classrooms in the district.

"It is really important for me to know what's happening in the classrooms," she told the board.

She also is holding "lunch talks" with students to learn how they feel about their schools and hear their suggestions for improvements.

Once such lunch meeting caused her to have to "polish my teaching skills," she said, when she had lunch with students from kindergarten through the fifth grade at Bunn Elementary -- and managed to keep such a diverse group involved and on topic.

She also told the board that the Teacher Advisory Council is [providing her good feedback and that budget planning for next fiscal year will be starting soon.

The superintendent also reported that she has had talks with attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice following their recent visits to Franklin County Schools.

"They have been very complimentary about what they saw," she reported, adding that there has been some "give and take" with them over issues such as student discipline.

That, she said, "focuses us to look at our own practices."

Pictured (Above): HONORED BY BOARD. Outgoing school board member Gil Johnson holds the plaque he was presented by the board during Monday night's meeting. In the background, board chair Dr. Elizabeth Keith leads the applause for Johnson's service on the board.