Schools might drop senior project

pseligson@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2014 

This year’s seniors could be the last to do a senior project.

The Johnston County Board of Education on Tuesday saw the first draft of a policy that would end the senior project.

Johnston seniors would have the new Common Core curriculum to thank, said Ross Renfrow, deputy superintendent. “Seemed some people saw what we’re doing now is so rigorous there’s not a need for this project anymore,” he said.

The senior project was originally a state mandate, but now counties can choose whether their seniors have to complete a project to graduate from high school. The project requires students to pen an essay in their junior year and complete a hands-on project in their senior year. Students either pass or fail; they do not receive a letter grade.

School board member Donna White said that, in retrospect, it was a mistake for the schools to make the project pass-fail. “It just makes the students feel like it’s just not worth their time to invest in it,” she said.

If the school board enacts the policy change at its next meeting, juniors who have already written the essay won’t have to complete the hands-on project next year. As seniors, if these students want to complete the projects, the schools may allow them to do so.

The policy change would also add two U.S. history classes, a requirement of Common Core.

Proposed budget

Johnston County schools will ask County Commissioners for about $5.6 million more this year than last.

For fiscal 2013-14,the county gave schools $52 million. This year, the school system is seeking about $57.6 million.

Superintendent Ed Croom said his staff had to finish its budget request before Gov. Pat McCrory released his, which is unusual: Typically, school systems know a governor’s budget wishes before drafting their own. McCrory released his budget last week, after the school board meeting.

“What we do know is our federal dollars are a lot less than what they were in the past,” Croom said.

Most of the requested increase – about $3.9 million – would go to school operations, including higher pay for locally paid teachers. The number includes a 1-percent supplement increase and salaries for technology staff.

The other $1.7 million would go to capital expenses, such as upkeep of school buildings and buses. In recent years, the school system, with the county’s blessing, has been diverting capital dollars to school operations. But Croom said the schools have repair needs they can no longer delay.

The school system’s budget request is subject to county approval.

Other business

The board voted to ban electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, from the schools. The board opted for the ban because of recent medical studies showing ill effects on teens and younger children.

Three people spoke during the public-comment period.

Rachel Sauls, a freshman at South Johnston High School, asked the school board to get involved in her anti-suicide efforts. Last year, she helped intervene with a suicidal student, and she realized she had no idea what to do.

“As a 13-year-old, you’re not involved with things like that,” Sauls said. So she’s started a chapter of the Save a Life club at her school. She wants other schools to start clubs as well.

Dawn Tolson spoke on behalf of the Guardian ad Litem program, which pairs adult advocates with children going through the courts because of abuse or neglect. The Guardian Ad Litem group wants to start an anti-abuse program in the schools that would include education units, student-led discussion groups and flyers.

Amy Wilkins asked the school board to advertise in her newspaper, Kidsville News, which she distributes free in a handful of elementary schools. Wilkins said she needs the advertising to keep the paper going.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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