At the Stokes County Board of Education working session held on Tuesday September 6th, the Board of Education discussed staffing within the Stokes County school system.
Melisa Jessup, human resources/executive director and public information officer, reported that there are five vacancies in the Stokes County school system. At the elementary level there are vacancies for a music teacher and an art teacher. Substitute teachers are currently responsible for these classes. The school system has reached out to retirees to see if they would be willing to fill the roles, but so far there have been no takers.
The Stokes County school system plans to participate in several university recruiting fairs, beginning in October in Appalachian State, with a plan to find individuals to fill these roles.
There is a middle school position open for 7th grade social studies in Chestnut Grove. There are also five and a half open positions for Support Area positions. These positions include suspension teacher at the West Stokes school, school nutrition swimmer (alternate) and a supervisory position at North Stokes.
At the beginning of 2022-2023 all positions for the Extraordinary Children program in Poplar Springs have been filled. As Ms. Jessup noted, this is the first time she can remember starting a school year with no vacancies for those roles, which she credits to the diligence of the Special Programs Director, Mrs. Terri Collins. “She was able to get creative with planning in Poplar Springs and cover that with a licensed teacher,” Jessup said. “Adding an assistant teacher from Exceptional Children – this person is actually a retired EC teacher from New Jersey. She and her family have moved to the North Stokes School District so we feel that need has been met but we continue to promote the opportunity.”
In the first week of October a post will become vacant in London Primary School for third year regular education. The person who filled this position is transferring to Southeastern Middle School for Language Arts at their request.
Another interesting topic was an update on school nutrition meals. Jonathan Brown, the director of nutrition, added that the number of meals served had decreased compared to the past two years. Meals were free for two years as part of the federal program. If families are not entitled to free or discounted meals, students must pay for meals. The current free and discount percentage is 56.7%, higher than in previous years. The high percentage has prompted the state to start direct certification for Medicaid-eligible families and families who qualify by income.
After hearing comments from parents and students alike about school lunches, Chairman Robertson asked about the restrictions on the school feeding program. According to Mr. Brown, the Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010 requires school nutrition programs to follow low-sodium, low-fat, and low-whole grain guidelines. All grains, like whole wheat biscuits and whole wheat pasta, need to be fortified. There are different calorie limits for kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade, and ninth through twelfth grade. According to Brown, one of the biggest challenges is maintaining calorie count while sticking with fat restrictions.
Mr. Brown mentioned that certain districts are funded by their local governments, rather than being funded by the USDA and state government, and because of this, they can serve whatever food they choose to serve. Funding for USDA is approximately $50,000 per week that the district would lose if it did not follow USDA guidelines.