Local control of school calendars, teachers carrying guns and the impact of additional charter schools in the county and school funding issues sparked interest in the minds of about 100 people who attended Saturday’s education forum at Statesville High School.
Iredell-Statesville Schools led a discussion centered on four areas it felt related to matters that may be acted upon by legislators – safety and security, the school calendar, facilities and growth and school choice options.
N.C. Reps. Robert Brawley and Rena Turner, N.C. Sen. Dr. David Curtis and Iredell County commissioners Ken Robertson, Renee Griffith and David Boone were in attendance.
I-SS officials had said before the event that they hoped it would be a way of presenting their point of view on major issues, afterward allowing time for discussion on specific points. The school system was also trying to put the thoughts of parents, otherwise known as voters, at the forefront of the debates between those who make laws dictating when schools can start and finish and how money can be used.
“I can tell you the tourism industry will not carry the same influence they did back then,” Brawley said after listening to several questions about why the state legislature in 2005 mandated that public school begin in the last week of August.
People were split into four groups after a brief presentation at the beginning of the forum. Central office department heads rotated between groups for close to two hours, facilitating question-and-answer sessions regularly contributed to by elected officials.
At each safety and security talk, the issue came up of allowing teachers with concealed carry permits to bring them into schools as a means of protection. Iredell County commissioners passed a resolution by a vote of 3-2 at Tuesday’s meeting to petition the General Assembly to change state laws allowing for such action.
Carrie Barker, a Love Valley resident and mother of a Central Elementary student, said a volunteer program that allowed educators to carry guns “would be the greatest deterrent to stop” an incident. She said it would also scare off people who think of committing such acts.
“They’re going to pick a school where someone won’t fight back,” said Barker. Several others had differing opinions, including two elementary school teachers, and many during the day expressed the same sentiment.
I-SS repeatedly reminded those present that it was in need of facilities funding. Last year’s facilities task force report laid out what the district would like to build in the next 10 years, a plan that in total is more than $200 million. But Boone said 25 percent of the county’s property tax revenue already goes toward paying for debt service on the last schools bond that was passed in 2005, which makes it hard to consider another large bond, he said.
Langtree Charter Academy is set to open in Mooresville in August as another option for parents in the county, and people asked questions about how its presence, and the likelihood that more charter schools are coming in the years ahead, would affect I-SS’ reputation in the community. It was noted that when people think about moving to an area, they generally start their research on the Internet, and the question came up about what reviews of the school system exist online.
Dr. Melanie Taylor, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for I-SS, said with the addition of the Visual Performing and Arts Center, Collaborative College for Technology and Leadership, Career Academy and Technical School and International Baccalaureate programs, along with dual immersion and science-oriented magnet options, that the district was keeping pace with the competition.