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What Avery Schools’ Missed Snow Days Means and Superintendent Search Updates

By Tim Gardner

-Missed School Days-

     Barring a multitude of more school days missed due to inclement weather, students, teachers and staff of Avery County’s Schools won’t lose much of their summer, and perhaps none of their Easter vacation, according to Avery County Schools Interim Superintendent Bill Miller.

     The current school year is currently set to end on June 6. But Miller said that the Avery County Board of Education is considering extending school two extra days for the 2017-18 academic year, which means it would end on June 8.

     However, the actual date the school year ends will be determined by the weather. A lot more missed days due to weather could push its closing date up a few more days in June. But the State of North Carolina requires that schools close for the 2017-18 academic year on June 10.

     That is different than years ago when there was no mandatory school closing date. Perhaps the longest closing date for students, teachers and staff in Avery County Schools came forty years ago during the 1977-78 academic year when they didn’t shut down until June 27 due to many missed days from inclement winter weather.

     Miller said that Avery County Schools are still set to be closed this year for spring break, also known as Easter Vacation, from March 30 through April 6. He noted that the whole Easter Break or any of its days will not be forfeited to make up missed school days unless no other alternatives exist.

     Miller added that having school on Saturdays also would be a last resort to make up missed school time and that the State of North Carolina only allows schools to be open on a Saturday if schools were closed one or more days during that week. By regulations, North Carolina Public Schools cannot be open for classes more than five days per week.

     Avery Schools were open on Monday, January 15, despite it being a Federal Holiday (Martin Luther King Day), to make up a school day already missed. Avery Schools will also operate on February 9 for students to help make up missed school time. It was previously scheduled as a workshop day in which students would have been out of school.

     The State of North Carolina used to mandate that its public school students attended 180 days. But it revised that policy, currently requiring students to attend classes for 1,080 hours each school year. In emergency situations due to inclement weather, freaks of nature, disasters or other

similar happenings, the state can lower the hours students must attend each school year to 1,025.

     Miller acknowledged that under the terms of the revised policy, it’s easier to make up school time missed by hours instead of whole days because of snow or other bad weather conditions.

     He commented: “That new state revision gives schools systems more leeway for making up missed school time and is particularly beneficial for schools in mountain counties like Avery since we see more snow and bad winter weather than other regions of the state. And often, Avery has the worst weather of any such school system.”

     However, Avery schools started the 2017-18 academic year a week later than normal last August, which Miller said may make it harder to make up missed school time if more bad weather forces school closings or delays.

     At press time (Tuesday, January 16), Avery has missed seven school days this 2017-18 academic year and has had starting times of classes extended by an hour-to-three hours several other days.


-Superintendent Search-


     Avery County Schools also is continuing its search for a new Superintendent to replace Ken Townsend, who recently resigned from the post.

     According to Miller, Avery County Schools has enjoyed a strong relationship with the county government and the citizens of Avery County, while experiencing strong growth in academics over the last several years, and the Board of Education is searching for a superintendent who will continue this tradition.

     Applications are being accepted through January 31 and are being handled by Asheville attorney Christopher Z. Campbell (Campbell-Shatley Law Firm), the Board of Education’s legal counsel.

The Superintendent will be the Chief Executive Officer of a public school system that serves more than 1,960 students in nine schools spread throughout Avery County.

     According to the job description, prior experience or a doctoral degree by the individual hired is preferred, but not required. Also the new Superintendent will be required to live in Avery County.

     The job description also reads that candidates for Superintendent should demonstrate a strong ability in: (1) instructional and administrative leadership; (2) partnering with community members, school personnel and government officials; (3) public relations; (4) administration and organization; (5) long and short-term planning; (6) budgeting; (7) personnel management and staff development; (8) facility management; and (9) community involvement.

     The Avery County Schools is governed by an elected five-member Board, which the Superintendent will serve at its leisure.

The job description also states that the person hired for Superintendent should be prepared to take office no later than April 1, 2018 and an earlier start date is preferred.

     Miller said the Avery Board of Education hopes to hire a Superintendent in March.