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WCS names Teachers of the Year

Watauga County Schools recently named its 2019-20 teachers of the year — one from each school in the district. Chosen by their peers, the group was selected from more than 300 teachers district-wide at all grade levels.

This year’s group includes Callie Jarman from Bethel, Sarah Holt from Blowing Rock, Anne Donadio from Cove Creek, Carly Mize from Green Valley, Tammy Whichard from Hardin Park, Gayle Oliver from Mabel, Heather Miller from Parkway, Mitchell Wright from Valle Crucis and Jennifer Williams from Watauga High School.

The teachers were surprised in their classrooms over the last several weeks by a group of their peers, family members and staff who gathered in each school’s office to surprise the award winner during class.

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott offered his congratulations to the newly named teachers of the year, and thanked them for their dedication to their craft.

“It’s truly an honor to be chosen by your peers for recognition as a teacher of the year,” Elliott said. “Teachers like these form the foundation of what we do as a district, and in more ways than most of us will ever know, they work tirelessly to move us toward our mission of being the best place to learn and work in the state. I’d like to congratulate each one of our teachers of the year; it’s an honor to work alongside such high quality instructors.”

Each school’s teacher of the year will receive an award of $350 from the school system and is automatically a candidate for the district-wide Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year. The person named the overall Teacher of the Year will be announced in May after a selection process that includes interviews, unannounced teacher observations in classrooms and a review of a written statement of teaching philosophy prepared by each candidate.

The person chosen as WCS Teacher of the Year will receive an additional $350 from the school system. Local businesses will also be given an opportunity to donate gift certificates or other prizes to help recognize teachers of the year.

The businesses that supported Teachers of the Year with donations in the past include Chetola Resort, Chick-fil-A, Stick Boy Bread Company, Panera Bread, AFLAC, Bandana’s Bar-B-Q and Grill, Dos Amigos, Friendship Honda of Boone, Hardee’s, Makoto’s, Subway, Cornerstone Bookstore, BeanStalk Community Theatre, Haircut 101, Michael’s, Omega Tees and Screen Printing, Precision Printing, Hibbett Sports, SageSport, Blue Ridge Vision, Tanger Outlets and Walgreens.

Businesses or individuals interested in making a donation this year are encouraged to contact Human Resources Director Stephen Martin or Public Information Director Garrett Price at (828) 264-7190.

Blowing Rock to interview town manager finalists on April 1

BLOWING ROCK – The search for a new permanent town manager of Blowing Rock is close to the finish line as interviews with the three finalists are set for Monday, April 1.

According to Councilman Doug Matheson, the council hopes to make a decision based on the interviews.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Matheson said.

The finalists come after narrowing down an initial list of more than 45 applicants, interim Town Manager Jim Freeman said.

Town council meetings were held on March 16 and 18 about the search, with those matters discussed in closed session.

Freeman said that at the March 16 meeting, the initial list of 48 applicants was narrowed down. Freeman said that since, the list was shortened to 12 and now is even fewer than that.

A meeting on April 1 has been called, starting at 12 p.m. at the Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock, for the purpose of meeting with town manager candidates in closed session.

At a March 15 public meeting with Rep. Ray Russell (D-Boone) and Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock), the council said that they were shooting for “the first of June” to hire a new manager, Matheson and Councilwoman Virginia Powell said.

As of March 26, Matheson said that the council was allowing itself a timeline to have the new town manager in place by the first of June.

One of the first big decisions the new town manager will have is to select a permanent public works director and police chief. Longtime Public Works Director Mike Wilcox retired in November 2018 and Police Chief Tony Jones retired in September 2018.

Matheson said the police chief and public works positions won’t be advertised until the new town manager takes over.

“We had talked it over ... with Freeman and he felt that it would be best for the new town manager to make that decision,” Matheson said. “That way, he can start off with two hires he selected.”

In December, town council decided to conduct the search internally, following presentations from multiple meetings with search firms and advice from town citizens. Council members expressed concern with the small number of applicants at the time, but Freeman said at the time that the holiday season was the reason for the low number of candidates. Freeman, Councilman Jim Steele and Matheson were tasked at that December meeting with pushing the search forward.

Previous Town Manager Ed Evans submitted his resignation and retirement in October, effective Nov. 30, after less than two years on the job. Before Evans, Scott Fogleman resigned after three years as Blowing Rock town manager in September 2016.

Steve Behr / Photo by Steve Behr 

Appalachian State offensive guard and Watauga graduate Josh Headlee (77) plays in the March 23 scrimmage. Headlee will undergo hip surgery late in May to repair a condition called Fermoroacetabular Impingement.

ASU, UNC campuses seek funding for increased summer enrollment

BOONE — Appalachian State is hoping to receive $7 million in additional state appropriations in the 2019-20 fiscal year to support increased summer class enrollment — which university leaders say could help more students graduate “on time.”

Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte outlined the goal during a budget presentation at a March 28 ASU Board of Trustees’ Business Affairs Committee meeting.

The University of North Carolina system has identified enrollment funding for on-campus undergraduate summer courses as a budget priority for the 2019-21 biennium. The UNC system Board of Governors approved budget priorities at its Jan. 25 meeting, just as the General Assembly’s long session began. The state legislature enacts a two-year state budget bill during long sessions in odd-numbered years, with budget adjustments passed during the short sessions of even-numbered years.

“Thanks to each institution’s hard work and the General Assembly’s continued support of the UNC system, we reached a five-year graduation rate of 70.2 percent in 2017-18 ... 8 percentage points ahead of the national average,” the board’s budget priorities document stated.

“Four-year graduation rates have also increased significantly over this period, but still hover around 50 percent. When it comes to transfer students who enter as juniors, about 30 percent finish their undergraduate degree within two years of transferring.”

The UNC system is requesting funding to expand enrollment in summer courses so that students may use the entire calendar year to make progress toward a degree, it said.

“UNC system data indicates that students who earn credit in the summer are much more likely to graduate and to graduate on time,” the document stated. “Today’s students, many of whom are working adults, active duty military and returning veterans, need the flexibility to earn credits year-round so that they can complete a degree in a timely fashion.”

Under current funding models, the board said, state appropriations and financial aid operate on the traditional academic calendar of fall and spring semesters — excluding courses delivered on campus in the summer. Instead, summer enrollment is receipt supported, it said, which restricts the type and number of courses that can be offered.

“The lack of funding has left summer sessions under-utilized and the physical plant under-leveraged,” the document stated. “Bringing summer funding in line with fall and spring allows institutions greater flexibility to eliminate bottle neck courses and add additional sections that juniors and seniors need to graduate.”

The UNC system is seeking recurring enrollment funding for on-campus undergraduate credit hours delivered in the summer, which it said will “bring summer tuition costs in-line with current in-state tuition rates, starting in summer 2020.”

The board requested $43.6 million for summer enrollment funding in 2019-20 — including $7.3 million for Appalachian State, the highest recommended appropriation among 15 UNC system campuses (the UNC School of the Arts and School of Science and Math were not included).

The funding recommendations were calculated using the existing enrollment model and were based on actual student credit hours enrolled in the summer of 2018, the system said. Appalachian’s appropriation was based on 37,322 credit hours — more than 10,000 more credit hours than the next highest institution by summer credit hours, N.C. State.

Appalachian State Provost Darrell Kruger said that Appalachian enrolls about 6,000 students in the summer — although many are through online courses.

“It’s higher than you’d expect,” Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts said.

Scott Lampe — an ASU trustee, chair of the Business Affairs Committee and former member of the UNC Board of Governors — said he viewed summer school as a “huge opportunity,” providing more pay for faculty, more use out of campus buildings and more revenues from auxiliary services such as dining and the bookstore.

“If we could get a couple thousand more kids on campus every summer, the world would be a better place in every facet of the university,” Lampe said.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget, released earlier this month, included $25 million for state funding support for summer enrollment, in addition to $5 million for summer scholarships (the UNC system had requested $7 million for summer scholarships).

But Cooper’s proposals are not binding, and the legislature will have the final say.

“There’s a long way to go on this,” Forte said.

The request comes as the UNC system is also seeking a shift in the overall enrollment growth funding model, which heretofore has been based on projected figures. The system is planning a shift to enrollment growth funding based on actual credit hours completed in arrears (including summer).