The Bell County School District received overall good news earlier this month when the state’s KPREP scores were announced. The district earned a three-star overall rating and earned four stars at the middle school level. However, the district was disappointed to learn that Bell County High School only earned a two-star rating.

During last week’s meeting, the Bell County Board of Education approved a plan presented by Superintendent Yvonne Gilliam to attack the deficiencies at the high school.

The board approved $1,000 stipends for five department heads that will be selected from among the school’s teachers — on each in Math, Science, English, Social Studies and Practical Living. These department heads will be working after school to meet with the other teachers in their departments and go over their curriculum.

“These department heads are specialized in the content areas that they are going to oversee and they are going to make sure that the content is comprehensively taught for every subject at every grade level,” Gilliam said.

She has also assigned two instructional supervisors — Jennifer Yankey and Angela Allen — to spend two days a week at the high school visiting classes.

“They will be meeting with teachers during their planning periods and sit down and look at their curriculum map and make sure all of the core content areas are being addressed,” Gilliam said. “We want to make sure that everything those children are going to be tested on is being taught. I want them to have a chance of being a 5-star school next year and the only way to do that is to have quality instruction in the classroom.”

The board heard from BCHS principal Brian Crawford during their planning session, but he was not present at the board meeting.

Part of the overall plan is to have Crawford conduct follow up meetings with the teachers after they have met with the instructional supervisors.  Another part of the strategy for improving test scores is concentrating on those students who’s scores are close to the next performance level and moving them up. Crawford will also be working to identify students who could benefit from other pathways to becoming transition ready.

“I would say that 60 percent of the teachers at Bell County High School do an outstanding job,” Gilliam said. “After Christmas I’m going to meet with Jennifer, Angie and Brian and they’re going to tell me maybe 14 or 15 teachers that we need to support. We may need to send them to classroom management, we’ve got money now that we can used to pay them to take a remediation class that they might need.”

The board will be updated on the progress being made in January.

In other business, Bell County Schools will be taking over the county’s youth football programs starting next year.

Students will be able to participate at no charge for flag football for Kindergarten through second graders at each elementary school and there will be one Bell County team for third and fourth graders and one for fifth and sixth graders to go along with the existing Bell Middle team made up of seventh and eighth graders.

“This will be at no expense to the parents so hopefully we can pick up some students who would have liked to participate but the cost was prohibitive for their families,” Superintendent  Yvonne Gilliam told the board. “I think it’s a win-win situation for the Bell County Board of Education. I think it will help keep our kids in our district and that’s very important to us financially, it’s a matter of survival as the years go by.”

All of the equipment the former youth league teams have on hand will be transferred to the school board but additional equipment will have to be purchased.

The board approved taking over the football programs and will be working with input from an advisory committee made up of coaches and parents who are involved with the current youth teams to set up formal plans for how the teams will be structured down the line. Members of that committee include P.J. Burnett, Justin Mays, John Dudley Hilton, Darrin Thomas and Darrin Clark.

Details still to be ironed out include how much additional equipment will need to be purchased, how many coaches will need to be hired, and how much additional transportation costs will be taken on to get the players to practices and games.

The board also unanimously approved a formal pathway to an Associates Degree for Bell County High School students who receive dual credit for their courses through Southeast Community and Technical College.

Gilliam said the program had been in place, but the specifics weren’t nailed down until Angela Allen sat down with representatives from the high school and Southeast. Students now have a clear schedule of classes to take in order to earn and Associates of Arts or Associates of Science by the time they graduate high school.

 “They know what classes to take in the summer and they know what classes to take each semester of their junior year and senior year. Pretty soon you’re going to have high school graduates walking across the stage and not only being presented a diploma by you all, but Vic Adams or somebody from Southeast will be there to also present them with an Associates Degree,” Gilliam said. “This is such a tribute to the Board of Education. This wouldn’t have happened if several years ago you didn’t agree to my recommendation to give $5,000 to teachers to go back to school. We’ve had eight teachers go back to school and get certified to be college adjunct professors. I appreciate your effort in making that a reality.”

Gilliam also gave a quick update to the board members on the ongoing non-resident student contract dispute with Pineville.  The transcript is still in the hands of the court stenographer who is having some medical issues. This is causing a delay in getting the transcript to the hearing officer.

“Once the hearing officer reviews it he will make his recommendation and send that to both councils. Both councils will then have 30 days to file either an agreement position or an opposition statement to whatever the hearing officer presents to the state board,” she said. “After another 30 days of review, the hearing officer will present his final proposal to the state board.”

Then the state board will be able to make their ruling and if either side is unhappy with their decision they can appeal to Franklin County Circuit Court.

“In my opinion it will be sometime next year before this is decided,” Gilliam said.

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