By Jesse Wood
Jan. 14, 2014. In December, the Watauga County Board of Education heard the frustrations of Roman Gabriel, president of Sold Out NC, a youth alcohol and drug abstinence education program that wasn’t invited back to Watauga High School for the current 2013-14 school year.
After listening to Gabriel’s lengthy presentation, touting the benefits of the program and questioning why officials at WHS didn’t want the program administered in the school, the Watauga County Board of Education didn’t know how to respond because school board members mentioned that they weren’t aware the program was no longer held at the high school.
So at January’s school board meeting held on Monday, the school board heard from WHS Principal Marshall Gasperson and Dr. Paul Holden, the director of student services for Watauga County Schools who was hired by the county school system in November.
While Gabriel wondered whether his belief in God expelled Sold Out NC from the high school at the previous meeting, Gasperson and Holden said the program was redundant with other programs being offered and took away from precious instruction time.
“It comes down to instructional hours,” Gasperson said. “It wasn’t a critique of the program … It would have to be an extremely star-studded, proven-data type of thing from this point on to take kids out of classroom instruction.”
Gasperson did, however, mention that he would provide security and a space for rent on the high school campus after the normal school operating hours or on Saturdays for the Sold Out NC program to take place.
Board Member Delora Hodges expressed concern that there weren’t enough programs for students in high school that build upon DARE at a time when adolescents may be more prone from straying from the straight and narrow.
Chair Dr. Lee Warren asked for a good reason why any school system wouldn’t want this type of program and asked why the program came to the high school last year but is denied this year.
After Warren’s question, Supt. David Fonseca spoke but removed Gabriel and Sold Out NC from the “equation.” He then hypothetically referenced a music concert that is invited to perform one year, but – after administrators learn that the “program doesn’t match the needs of the school at a particular time” – it isn’t invited back.
“It’s not that it is a bad program,” Fonseca said.
Holden added that “one-and-done programs” aren’t valuable and are not the most effective ways to utilize instructional time – even if the message is positive. Holden was referencing the 45-minute Sold Out NC pre-prom assembly that happens in the spring and then follows up and engages with students through social media.
Patrick Williamson, the student member of the school board, mentioned towards the end of the discussion that a program involving students collaborating with other students they know would be more productive than listening to somebody such as Gabriel that “they don’t know.” (One premise of Sold Out NC, however, is to use the celebrity of athletes to influence students to stay sober.)
Holden praised Williamson for his idea and mentioned that he would begin working on such an initiative in the morning. Fonseca also commended Williamson.
No vote on the matter was taken.
Read a prior article detailing December’s meeting where Gabriel spoke before the board.