Robeson schools scramble in Matthew’s wake

By Bob Shiles -

PEMBROKE — The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County had Hurricane Matthew on its members’ minds Thursday as they reviewed a revised school calendar, recognized two employees for outstanding service during the storm, and reviewed payroll information to ensure that school employees don’t suffer any financial hardship.

Board members met for their regular monthly meeting on Thursday instead of the usual second Tuesday of the month because Tuesday was Election Day. The meeting was held at The University of North Carolina’s Office of Regional Initiatives at COMtech as the system’s central office is heavily damaged from the storm.

Superintendent Tommy Lowry and West Lumberton Elementary School Principal Tara Bullard were presented certificates recognizing their efforts during the recent hurricane.

Assistant Superintendent Thomas Benson said that Bullard was responsible for coordinating a feeding program for those in West Lumberton. He said she also brought together staff to help clean her school, the hardest hit in the system by Matthew.

Benson said Lowry coordinated food delivery for feeding more than 1,000 people in shelters; used a boat to get into flooded areas to survey for damage; worked in the Robeson County Emergency Communications Center; and worked with state and federal agencies to expedite repairs and restoration.

In other business, the board tentatively approved a revised school calendar for students that will not increase the days they will have to attend school in order to make up 15 school days lost as a result of the hurricane. Bobby Locklear, who oversees school district testing, said that the required 1,025 hours of instruction can be made up by adjusting time within the current calendar.

Locklear also said that legislators may adopt law that allows for fewer school days.

Teachers, however, may not be so lucky. A worse-case scenario shows teachers having to work an additional 13 days at the end of the school year, to July 5. Locklear said teachers by state law have to work 215 days.

Board member Brian Freeman told the board that local school districts have “flexibility” when developing a calendar. He urged the board not to act quickly to approve a calendar so that there is a “hardship on the backs of teachers.”

Locklear said that any calendar approved by the board can be adjusted “if necessary.”

In other business, school board members:

— Heard from Ken Brandt, director of Robeson County Planetarium and Science Center, that a Mars map given to the school through the Buzz Aldrin Grant Program survived the hurricane and will soon be back on display.

— Recognized Rhonda Thompson, a seventh-grade math teacher at Rowland Middle School, as the district’s Certified Teacher of the Month; Janice Oxendine, a custodian at Pembroke Middle School, as the district’s Classified Employee of the Month; and Linda Keels as the district’s Bus Driver of the Month.

By Bob Shiles

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

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