School board gets audit update, learns about ‘Read to Achieve’

Abby Cavenaugh Editor

October 29, 2013

The Anson County Board of Education got a positive report on the fiscal year 2012-13 audit from accounting firm Rives & Associates Monday night.

The school board held its regular monthly meeting at the Anson Academy at the Lockhart-Taylor Center, since the board’s usual meeting space is being used for early voting.

The report from Rives & Associates showed that retirement rates for school staff have almost doubled since 2009, which means that the school system pays $1.4 million more for the retirement system.

Child Nutrition’s budget has also decreased, while food costs and personnel costs have risen. In Anson County, 70 percent of the student population is on free and reduced meals, which means Anson County Schools’ revenues from free and reduced meal reimbursements are actually higher than the revenues from food sales. “Basically, your general fund balance is $500,000 more than projected,” Kinley Rives said, “and your Child Nutrition fund is about $100,000 less.”

Board member Mike Turner questioned how much lottery funds are used in Anson County. Chief Financial Officer Holly Berry responded that the school system gets about $900,000 a year from the lottery, which Turner said didn’t seem like a very good return on the investment. Berry argued, however, that it is, saying that many of the school system’s programs could not be done without lottery funds.

In other business at Monday night’s meeting, administrator for curriculum and instruction Jennifer McLaurin and literacy coordinator Lawanda McLendon gave the board an update on the Read to Achieve initiative.

The North Carolina Read to Achieve program was created by the General Assembly through House Bill 950. “The goal for this legislation is for all children to be proficient in reading by grade 3,” McLaurin explained.

Anson County has an advantage over some other counties, in that it’s already been doing intensive reading programs over the past few years, she said. Students are assessed at the beginning of the year, and then their progress is monitored and the results reported to parents. Students are assessed again at the middle of the year.

“What happens if a child is not proficient?” McLaurin said. “If they don’t pass the reading portion of the third grade end-of-grade testing, they have to go to a summer reading camp. This camp is six to eight weeks, four hours a day.”

Although McLaurin said she isn’t sure what the budget for the Read to Achieve summer camp will be, “We will do everything we can to ensure that every student is proficient.”

“Looking ahead, how many students do you think will be affected?” Turner asked.

McLendon responded that it could affect as many as 55 percent of third-graders.

During discussion of the consent agenda, school board member Dr. George Truman asked if Anson was seeing any of the turnover problems that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are seeing. Board chair Lisa Davis replied, “Folks who are leaving here are usually because of health issues or family relocations or retirement. I don’t think we’re seeing the turnover that Mecklenburg is seeing.”

Davis also thanked the Anson County Board of Commissioners for “always standing with us” so that there aren’t the problems between the county and schools, like some neighboring counties are seeing.

The school board will next meet on Nov. 25 at the Board of Education Office at the Charles Riddle Staff Development Center.