New members sworn in to board of education

Southerland elected as board chair, Blue elected as vice-chair

Image via HCS Youtube

RAEFORD — The Hoke County Board of Education met Tuesday, December 13, to swear in newly elected members and to discuss the state of the Leandro case.

The meeting began with the swearing-in of the three newly elected board members – Angela Southerland, Ruben Castellon, and Catherine Blue – each of whom won the three highest percentages of votes from this November’s election.

Following the official swear-in, the board voted to elect Angela Southerland as Board Chair and Catherine Blue as Vice-Chair, both by a 3-2 count. Each will be serving in these positions in their first year with the board.

“I just want to thank everybody for giving me the opportunity to serve,” Southerland said. “I look forward to working with the whole board as a team, and I look forward to serving your children, our children, and the community.”

“Thank you so much for your support,” said Blue. “I thank you most of all for your prayers. I thank you for this opportunity to serve. We are servants, and we are here to make a difference.”

The board then approved a request to use Capital Outlay Fund Balance to refurbish the West Hoke Middle School tennis courts.

“Currently, Hoke County Schools has a fund balance in Capital Outlay of $120,000,” said Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Information Systems Chad Hunt. “We are requesting to use these funds to reimburse the cost for the tennis courts at West Hoke Middle School that need to be refurbished.”

“Essentially, where the tennis courts are at West Hoke High School, those will be removed as part of the new building that will sit on top of those tennis courts, and they will be relocated to a different site on campus,” continued Hunt. “In order to ensure the Hoke County High School tennis teams have appropriate tennis courts to continue their matches and practices, the need exists to refurbish the tennis courts at West Hoke Middle School.”

According to Hunt, West Hoke Middle School was chosen due to its proximity to the high school. The courts will also be open to public use once refurbished.

The board was then briefed on the current state of the Leandro case, which has been ongoing litigation for nearly three decades.

Recently, the supreme court ruled that public education is a public good and that the state of North Carolina failed to properly support Hoke County through inadequate funding, which will result in a required increase in funding.

According to Melanie Dubis, who is part of the legal team for the case, the Leandro plan, which has an eight-year comprehensive budgetary plan, the estimated budget impact from it is expected to amount to an increase of $7.7 million in funding or $3,715 more per student, a 41% increase.

“From the board’s perspective, I would take the position that you won,” Dubis said. “That the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Hoke County and the children of Hoke County, North Carolina, that this plan has to be funded and that you are ready, willing, and able to make the best use of those funds for the best interests of the children.”

The board was also briefed on the new Fly Five curriculum, which is set to be rolled out to K-8 students.

“Fly Five is a comprehensive K-8 curriculum,” said Executive Director of Student Support Services Dr. Katy Owens. “It also focuses on responsibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion. This past summer, we did a soft rollout of the Fly Five curriculum. The curriculum aims to be transparent, and there is a school-to-home connection that we are very pleased with. In addition to that, all of the elementary schools have it in their school improvement plans, as well as in our middle schools. It is also aligned with our standards and based on research.”

The curriculum includes five competencies: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-care, and it is based on social-emotional learning.

The Hoke County Board of Education will next meet January 10.