5/23/19 Federally-funded efforts

Federally-funded efforts
School board talks behavior issues, migrant students
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 5/23/19    
Reprinted with permission.
The Alamance-Burlington School System hopes to address discipline issues and aid migrant students with new federally-funded positions in 2019-20.

At the Tuesday, May 21, meeting of the Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning Angela Bost presented five new positions to be added to the federal programs plan. Each one would be created by redirecting and leveraging current federal funds.

They are:
• district literacy coach;
• lead school counselor;
• behavior specialist;
• migrant recruiter; and
• federal programs budget specialist

The board had questions about the migrant recruiter. Mainly: “What is it?”

Alamance County receives migrant funding, which means the schools are required by law to have a migrant recruiter working to ensure migratory children are provided with appropriate educational services "to be in compliance with the funding source,” Bost said.

The legal status of these children and their families isn’t the school system’s concern.

Board member Tony Rose pointed out that some of these students end up struggling academically due to missed class time, so this position would likely aid teachers.

“Some of the challenges we have with folks, I think, that would fall into this category is that they show up late to the school year, sometimes they leave early, sometimes over the Christmas break they travel to another country and come back later so they’re missing substantial educational days,” Rose said. “So, these efforts would be to try to help mitigate their educational experience so that they’re on par with the other students.”

However, the board agreed the name — which was handed down by the feds — doesn’t accurately represent what the position is for.

“It sounds like we’re going out and recruiting migrants, which I know is not the intent,” Board Chair Allison Gant said.

“I am not married to that,” Bost said. “I would be very open to changing that. I’ll take that back to the team.”

In an updated version of the presentation sent to the Times-News on Wednesday, May 22, the position title was changed to “migrant liaison.”

Board members also asked about the behavior specialist, whom Bost said would work out of central office and serve as an adviser for the principals and teachers at all 36 schools.

Rose brought up county commissioner Bill Lashley’s criticism that the schools let student behavior go unchecked.

At the Monday, May 20, budget hearing the night prior, Lashley said, “I get calls from teachers saying the place is crazy. I’m tired of hearing it. The school board needs to grow a backbone and put discipline in our schools.”

“We have a commissioner that comments frequently on discipline in the schools, and while there may be some disagreement with the frequency or how common he thinks it is compared to others [thinking] it may not be, I think he’s truthful that he gets the calls and that he’s not wrong in that there are issues that are there,” Rose said. “As I’ve said many times, whatever’s in the culture is in the schools, and we’re in times that are different than when we were in school. Acknowledging his point and recognizing that, can you speak to how this may help make improvements in those areas?”

The goal of this position would be to provide each school with uniform tools to deal with behavior issues in ways that have been proven effective, Bost said.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the positions to be added to the federal programs plan. Board members Patsy Simpson and Steve Van Pelt were absent.