At the Burke County Board of Education work session meeting Tuesday night at Olive Hill Resource Center, the school board members met and discussed a number of proposals that they will vote on at Monday’s regular meeting.

The work session lasted more than two hours as board members discussed a range of items. In particular, they debated over a policy code stated in the Burke County Board of Education policy manual.

Among those topics moved to be voted on at Monday’s regular session were whether to change Policy Code 3450 — class rankings. Currently, the district policy is the high schools do not recognize the valedictorians or salutatorians and instead designate Latin rankings of cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.

The policy reads, “While no valedictorian or salutatorian will be designated, all seniors who have earned a grade point average (GPA) of 4.0 or above as of the end of the third nine weeks of the senior year shall be recognized as honor graduates, in accordance with the following guidelines:

» Students with GPAS between 4.00 and 4.24 will graduate cum caude.

» Students with GPAs between 4.25 and 4.49 will graduate magna cum laude.

» Students with GPAs above 4.5 or higher will graduate summa cum laude.”

Board member R.L. Icard told his fellow board members why he is in favor of recognizing valedictorians and salutatorians.

“Why not recognize these people that work so hard to be valedictorians?” Icard said. “If we’re not going to recognize them, I feel like we should do away with athletic banquets because that recognizes individual people.”

Board member Seth Hunt told fellow board members why he voted to eliminate the recognition of valedictorians and salutatorians.

“Yet again, we had a situation at Freedom High School two years ago where the recognized valedictorian was not in fact the valedictorian,” Hunt said. “(This happened) because the determinations of (the rankings) were calculated at the end of the third nine weeks, not the (end of the) fourth nine weeks, immediately prior to graduation. That was a problem.”

Assistant Superintendent David Fonseca said the competition in schools between both students and parents has put an increased pressure on today’s students that those of past generations maybe did not face.

“While validating the work of those that are very hard-working is also needed, there’s an understanding that it has gotten so competitive for students,” Fonseca said. “Even colleges will tell you, we are sending students to college who are burnt out by the time they finish high school. We were not burnt out when we finished high school. Perhaps our parents were not able to finish high school, and that’s a generational transition that has happened — we want for the next generation better than what we have.

“But in that spirit of getting better than we had, I think that we’re also putting a lot of pressure on them. Those of us who work in schools every day, we see (this pressure).”

The board also will vote on two recommended changes to the Burke County Child Nutrition Procurement Plan submitted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

The first recommended change is to raise the threshold for micro-purchases from $3,500 to $10,000, according to Daniel Wall, BCPS child nutrition director.

“The reason for this (change) is if we have a piece of equipment go out suddenly, it allows us to be able to buy those without having to do formal bids,” Wall said. “This is something that we have been bogged down with this year.”

Second, the former plan notated that BCPS could only buy equipment annually, which Wall said was “probably a typo.” NCDPI recommended the new plan state that BCPS can buy equipment as needed.

The board also will vote on the purchase of a food truck, which the school system plans to use for a host of activities. The main uses of the food truck are for summer feeding of students on free and reduced lunches, Wall said.

“We feed about 600 kids every day at Mountain View Elementary and Valdese Elementary in the summer,” Wall said. “We have close to 7,000 students who (receive) free (lunches), so we’re missing a lot of kids. We see this truck as an opportunity in the summer for kids to eat a meal they might not be able to get otherwise.”

Wall said BCPS plans to move the truck out into higher population areas near Hillcrest Elementary and Forest Hill Elementary. Wall said the school system has plans to hit three to four places a day for about 30 minutes each.

The truck also could be used for elementary school field days and to take the truck to area high schools, as well as at festivals like the Historic Morganton Festival. The truck would potentially be used in high school classes “to give kids an experience in working in a real restaurant-type environment, as (BCPS high schools) have kids that want to be chefs,” according to Wall.

Wall also recognized Traci Riebel, who helped to raise more than $42,000 at the Blue Ridge Healthcare Foundation for the purchase of the truck, which will cost an estimated $183,000, according to Wall.

Board member Wendi Craven suggested to Wall that BCPS think about performing visits during the longer holiday breaks, as “there are a lot of students that go without (adequate food) during that time.”

Monday’s regular meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Olive Hill Resource Center.

Johnny Casey can be reached at jcasey@morganton.com or 828-432-8907.

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