By Al Dozier


The District 5 School Board Monday agreed to request a waiver for student online testing requirements set by the state for spring of 2018.

District officials said the waiver being requested by District 5 is also being sought by many other districts throughout the state in preparation for the new testing program, which will require extensive technical resources to enable students to take tests online. District 5 officials say the district currently has the capacity to provide on-line testing for 90 percent of its students.

In its request for the waiver, the district said it currently does not have one-to-one devices to ensure the mode of instruction is the same as that of the team administering the tests. The district also needs to ensure that internet access is available to students in settings outside of the district.

Superintendent Stephen Hefner said English language testing has presented some problems as the final preparations are being made.

District officials said efforts are well underway to finalize the program.

Another proposal on the board agenda calling for a revision of policies relating to the evaluation of the superintendent was criticized during the public participation period.

The revised policy eliminated a requirement that a written copy of the annual evaluation be filed with the superintendent’s office as part of the contract. Such a change would mean that there’s “no written record” of the contract that could be made available to the public, according to Chapin resident Liesha Huffstetler.

She said such a provision sounds like a “backdoor deal.”

But board member Michael Cates offered an amendment to the policy that would provide for a written document to be filed with the superintendent’s office. The amendment was approved by the board.

Huffstetler said the amendment cleared the way in case anyone wanted to file a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for details of the contract.

In its annual election of officers for the coming year, the board re-elected Robert Gantt chairman. Larry Haltiwanger was elected vice chairman, and Ellen Baumgardner, secretary.

The board approved the district’s 2018-2019 School Calendar, which calls for the first day of school on Aug. 22. Holidays include: Sept. 3, Labor Day;  November 21-23 Thanksgiving; Winter Break, December 20-Jan. 2; New Years, Jan. 1; Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 21; Spring Break, April 15-19; Memorial Day, May 27. The last day of school is June 6.

The board also received a report from Hefner on his goals for the 2017-2018 School Year. They included: continuing the district’s high SAT and ACT scores to exceed the state and national average; continuing a graduation rate higher than the national average; continuing having a dropout rate lower than the national average; employing top-level teachers; advancing technology programs.

Meeting in Chapin High School, the board continued a celebration of the selection of Chapin High School Principal Akil Ross as National Principal of the Year. Rep. Nathan Ballentine and Rep. Chip Huggins, who represent the District 5 area, praised Ross for his service and presented him with documents recognizing his accomplishments during the past seven years.

Photo: Chapin High School Principal Akil Ross, shown here with school board members, was recognized during Monday’s board meeting for his selection as National Principal of the Year.  Photo by Al Dozier