State data shows Hoke County school performances impacted by pandemic

Hoke County High School drone instructor Mr. Mario Malabunga received a plaque of appreciation for all he has done for his students at the Sept. 13 Hoke County Board of Education meeting. (Courtesy photo)

RAEFORD — The Hoke County Board of Education met Tuesday, September 13, with the preliminary budget and updates on district performance key items on the agenda.

The board kicked off the meeting by approving the preliminary 2022-23 budget resolution for Hoke County Schools.

“When we start each year, we have to appropriate our funds before we can start spending,” said Chief Financial Officer Wannaa Chavis. “Once the state gives us our budget and our other budget is allocated, then we can.”

According to Chavis, Hoke County Schools will begin the year with a budget of $6,173,463.82. 

The board was also presented with the 2021-22 accountability data from the state, which involves grading for each of the district’s schools on a 15-point grading school.

Hoke County Schools had one school receive an A grade (Sandhoke Early College High School), three receive a C grade, eight receive a D grade–which is the bottom standard for meeting expectations–and one receive an F grade (J.W. McLauchlin).

Three schools were also identified in the data as recurring low-performing schools: J.W. McLauchlin Elementary, West Hoke Middle, and East Hoke Middle.

“We are extremely appreciative to our entire district staff for their hard work and dedication during last year,” said Superintendent Debra Dowless. “Learning and teaching through a pandemic. Our staff definitely persevere through the challenges. We had some instruction shifts, staff shortages, and we had some unexpected terms. As a team, we recognize that the past two years have been very challenging. They did impact some data. We may not be where we were pre-pandemic, but we are in better shape than we were last year.”

Despite the low scores, there were signs of improvements across the district.

“One of the highlights from the data, though, is that 100% of Hoke County schools increased their overall GLP composite scores from 2020-2021,” said Director of Testing and Accountability Melissa Ward. “Those scores are a combination of all assessment measures.”

The board was then given an update on the Hoke County High School Replacement Project.

“We have started sharing a draft of a design we have been working on,” Dowless said. “We shared it with the county commissioners and city council. So tonight, we want to share it. It’s still all preliminary and still working on the design for what will be in the best interest of the community and students and being as efficient as possible.”

Finally, the board was presented with the proposed plan for a COVID-19 testing program.

“We have a K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program,” said Executive Director of Student Support Services Dr. Peggy Owens. “In terms of where we are right now, we are in conversation with Mako right now, and our next step will be for their representative to come out and do site visits for all of the schools that will actually host testing sites, and then we’ll begin scheduling and notifying parents.”

The Hoke County Board of Education will next meet October 11.