Summary of Polk County School Board meeting

Published 8:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2022

Additional comments and thoughts from Superintendent Greene

 

POLK COUNTY––Monday night, the Polk County School Board gained approval for an employee pay raise and for taking the least restrictive approach to Covid-19 protocols.

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Polk County School District full-time employees will now receive a $1,500 retention bonus for the 2021-2022 academic year. These bonuses will be paid during the March 2022 pay period. In addition, part-time employees will also receive a retention bonus of $750 for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Superintendent Aaron Greene requested and gained approval for a $2 per-hour increase for all bus drivers, in addition to their $13 hourly pay or their 2.5% pay raise.

After proposing that masks become optional in schools, the motion carried with a 7-0 vote.

Superintendent Greene has sent an email to families with updated Covid-19 guidelines, which state that individual contact tracing and exclusion from school after an identified exposure is no longer recommended. Current Covid-19 protocols also include guidance for students, teachers and staff that have symptoms, as well as for people who test positive for infection. More information about the updated Covid-19 protocols can be found at polkschools.org.

Concluding the meeting, the Board allowed students and parents to speak publicly for a maximum of 3 minutes to address any concerns they may have.

First to speak was Shelly Burrell, a parent with concerns about Polk County’s policies regarding individuals who identify as transgender. She stated that she felt as though there were safety concerns, and that potentially dangerous situations could occur.

Shortly thereafter, a student at Polk County High School, Molly Turman, spoke as an advocate of transgender youth. She says that transgender people are kindhearted and accepting. “Despite this, I’ve seen nothing but acts of harassment, belittlement, and in some instances, physical assault against these trans students.”

As context, there is federal law that governs policies regarding transgender youth in school. Any public school in the Fourth Circuit, which includes North Carolina, must abide by the parameters of a Supreme Court decision that says schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identities.

When asked about the comments regarding transgender students, Superintendent Greene provided this statement:

“The district does its best to work with all students and families to address needs or concerns, offer accommodations, and resolve any conflicts. This must be done in the public-school context, which is subject to applicable laws and policies, and in consideration of legal precedent. In these situations, we do the best we can to compromise, work together, and move forward.”

Prior to a public comment from Dick Shaughnessy, expressing concerns with CRT (Critical Race Theory) in Polk County schools, Superintendent Greene addressed the issue.

He stated that Polk County Schools are required to teach the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and CRT is not referenced or mentioned in the standards for any subject.

“Currently, there are no requirements or directives from the state to teach or include CRT, or to use specific materials that are related to CRT. I am not aware of any teacher or classroom in Polk County Schools where CRT is being taught or will be taught. Polk County Schools has no plans to use those materials or approaches to teaching the standards.”

He closed his statement by reestablishing that Polk County Schools has been clear with staff and the public that they are not teaching CRT in their classrooms.

In addition, two separate individuals spoke at the meeting expressing support for the school board. They thanked the Board for all their hard work and extra hours they put in, letting them know they appreciate everything they do for the community.

Superintendent Greene follows up the meeting with these thoughts:

“Our schools have always been a district that wants to partner with parents. We understand that there are always going to be things we need to improve and work on, but at the end of the day, we’d rather have conversations with individual people. We are focused on moving forward with the educational experience that we provide for kids. Though there’s a great deal of controversy circling around the schools right now, we are focused on the kids.”

The opinions stated during public comments in this or any article are those of the individuals making the comments, and not those of the Tryon Daily Bulletin.