BOONE —Board of education members voted May 21 to strike a certain part of its dress code policy that was said to be targeting females.
One of board’s student representatives, Kelsey Marlett, presented information to the school board in December of a survey she conducted at the high school. The survey found that 84.5 percent of students felt that the dress code targeted one gender over the other, with the same number also finding the code to be targeted towards females.
Marlett, her co-student representative Isabella Trew, as well as board members Brenda Reece, Jason Cornett and an assistant principal, were tasked with meeting together to review the dress code for gender bias. As a result of this committee meeting together, it was suggested the words “the sleeves shall cover the shoulders” be taken out of the policy — 4316-R.
Director of Student Services Paul Holden said Watauga County Schools administration feels as if this revision to the policy has been vetted and administration will work on educating students on what’s appropriate dress for school.
“If this helps remove that gender bias, I think it’s one of the best things that’s happened this year with the work of out student representatives,” said board member Gary Childers.
The board unanimously voted to accept the deletion of the wording on its first reading.
The board also approved the Career and Technical Education local plan system presented by Tierra Stark — Watauga High School assistant principal and Watauga Innovation Academy coordinator. In order for the CTE programs to continue to receive funding, Stark said the board must approve the plan, which is then presented at the state level.
Stark stated that the CTE program’s goals for the next year are to “hire the best and grow the best,” help students become productive citizens by providing credentials and certificates, provide work based learning — to give students the opportunity to learn from industry advisors and experts in the field — and cross curricular education for students to not only develop CTE skills but grow in academics.
In the past year, Stark said WCS had 2,311 students (sixth through 12th grade) participate in CTE courses with the help of 23 CTE teachers. Of these students, 161 were CTE concentrators at WHS/WIA, meaning these students had taken four or more CTE courses.
WCS also promotes work based learning through the CTE program, Stark said. She mentioned that the CTE program has about 120 to 150 interns a year at various places across the county such as Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, the elementary schools, Appalachian State University, automotive/welding shops, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Blue Ridge Electric.
Stark also said students are encouraged to participate in dual enrollment with WCS’s partnership with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. In the past school year, 260 students participated in 644 CTE dual enrollment courses.
In the CTE’s work based plan, it’s graded on six indicators — reading and language arts, math, technical attainment, secondary school completion, student graduation rates and secondary placement. WCS is then compared to other school districts in the northwest region of the state and an affinity group (comprised of schools of similar population, demographics and number of high schools), Stark said.
Stark shared statistics with the board members, including that 94.7 percent of its CTE concentrators passed technical skill assessments aligned to industry standards, 97 percent of WCS concentrators graduate a secondary school at some point and 99.2 percent of CTE students have a positive outcome.
These positive outcomes come in form of 70 percent of its students becoming employed (part- or full-time), 31 percent are in a four-year college, 34 percent are in a community college and 4 percent are enlisted in the military.
“We check up on all of our graduates,” Stark said. “All of our teachers spend weeks calling them and checking on what they’re doing.”
Marlett and Trew also presented information to the board that they had gathered during their school visits. Marlett said she and Trew had made it a goal to visit with students from every school in the county and collected data based on their feedback.
Trew stated that they would start off visits by asking students what leadership meant to them and aspects of their schools that they liked. The two reps then asked students if given the chance, how they would positively change their schools.
Trew said it was voiced at almost every school that students called for more outside and hands-on learning. Marlett mentioned that concerns were also voiced for wanting more interconnectedness between the elementary schools.
“A lot of eighth graders are nervous about coming to the high school and they feel like they don’t know a lot of people from other schools,” Marlett said. “A lot of students have been calling for more interaction between elementary schools such as more collaborative field trips and more preparation for high school.”
At the high school level, concerns were voiced to the student reps about increasing access to mental health resources. Marlett said while the high school has the ASK center available to students, students are apprehensive about going to the center because of the stigma surrounding mental health.
Marlett attributed some of this stigma from what students learn about mental health in their health classes.
“It comes off as a passing sort of clinical description,” Marlett said. “Whereas it’s something that many, many students deal with. There’s a lot of stigma around it ... it comes across as some sort of dangerous disease rather than something a lot of people just live with.”
Both student reps said that students need to be made more aware of mental health resources available to them.