LUMBERTON – The roughly $ 89 million lawsuit through an appeal process with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was approved on Tuesday by the Robeson County Public Schools Education Board.
Counsel for the board, Grady Hunt, said outgoing board chairman Craig Lowry was instrumental in shaping the decision to retain the law firm Baker Donelson in Washington, DC, to assist the PSRC in its appeal to FEMA.
FEMA rejected the PSRC’s request for funding, but offered the school district about $ 4.5 million in Hurricane Matthew recovery funding, Hunt said.
“We’re in a position where we’re doing one of two things, take the $ 4.5 million and leave or appeal FEMA decisions, which we’re doing now,” Hunt said.
Weekly video conferences with state emergency management officials take place throughout the appeal process, Hunt said.
“We’re here for the long haul. I don’t think we have a choice, ”the lawyer said.
The fee structure is $ 200 to $ 605 depending on the DC-based law firm member working on the case, and attorneys are around $ 350 to $ 605 per hour, Hunt said.
The decision to continue the appeal was unanimously approved by the members of the school board.
“We have engaged them (the company) as part of our FEMA call, which is actually due August 10,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the company will provide specialist services. Baker Donelson employs Ernest Abbott, former FEMA general counsel, according to the company’s website.
“Baker Donelson’s disaster recovery team provides legal and regulatory advice, training and advisory services in the areas of disaster preparedness and recovery.” according to its website.
“Our experience includes comprehensive financial oversight, records management, compliance advice, policy and government relations services. These services are based on previous experience of managing large-scale grants involving billions of dollars in funding from the Federal Post-Disaster Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States for Housing and Urban Development ( HUD) that members of Baker Donelson’s team have helped manage across the country, including a successful collaborative response and recovery efforts in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, New York, and New York. Jersey, ”according to the company’s website.
The school district has implemented flood insurance as it was asked to do after Hurricane Matthew, which could come in handy if another hurricane wreaks havoc in the county or on the properties of the school, said Erica Setzer, PSRC’s finance director.
In other areas, Superintendent Freddie Williamson said administrators are updating the current re-entry plan and monitoring the COVID-19 Delta variant. A more in-depth conversation will take place in August regarding the decision.
During Tuesday’s meeting, members approved the appointment of Mike Smith as school board chair and Brenda Fairley-Ferebee as vice-chair. John Simmons was also nominated for the post of vice chairman, but lost to Fairley-Ferebee by a vote.
Former school board chair Craig Lowry thanked board members and Williamson for their help in managing the pandemic. He said virtual learning was one of the hardest parts of the school year.
“We don’t know what we’re going to face this coming year,” Lowry said.
Smith, who served on the school board for 32 years, also shared a message as he took on the role of president.
“First of all, I commend Mr. Lowry for the work he has done during this pandemic,” Smith said.
He said the board is working together and keeping an eye on the end goal of education.
In other areas, board member Terry Locklear asked Policy Committee Chairman William Gentry to consider drafting a policy for a President-elect position to ease the “transition” to the position of President-elect. advice.
Also on Tuesday, President Smith said those who wish can speak in person for three minutes during the August meeting. Interested members of the public can register to speak before the meeting. The August meeting is open to the public.
Board members also heard from Loury Floyd, dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, who provided a quarterly update on partnerships between the UNCP and public schools in Robeson County.
“We find that the majority of our graduates are employed here or looking for employment in this particular district,” Floyd said.
There are 660 former UNCP students who work for the PSRC, she said. There are 185 residency permit applicants enrolled in educator preparation programs and working for the school district.
Setzer said the school district is expanding its program to help teacher assistants pay for teacher certification training.
The school system is entering its third year in the program which gives teacher assistants selected by human resources during an application process $ 4,500 to $ 4,600 to help pay for training, she said. State funding will allow the school system to help five other teacher assistants with their training.
Floyd invited PSRC officials to take free mental health first aid training on August 13.
Lowry said the more staff the district receives from the university, the fewer candidates it will have to recruit elsewhere. He asked the university to continue its efforts to provide staff, and to increase the number if possible.
Floyd also said the university has partnered with the PSRC and the County of Scotland to apply for a $ 400,000 grant from the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, which will help minority-serving institutions “implement High-quality, inclusive and sustainable educator preparation programs’ to positively impact student minorities.
In other areas, officials at Robeson Community College have asked administrators to support Career and College Promise continuing education programs such as firefighting and law enforcement, among other courses.
“I’ll be honest with you, this is really a cry for help,” said Steven Hunt, vice president of workforce development and continuing education at the college.
Hunt said students are needed to complete the programs and take those positions in the workforce.
“We really need to push this into our local schools,” Lowry said.
He said the number of PSRC students in the program this year was “extremely low”.
College President Melissa Singler said professional development is also available for PSRC staff.
School board member Henry Brewer said maintenance workers can look into this training.
“I’m overwhelmed today,” Singler said. “Think for a second, the big three are in this room, PSRC, UNCP, and Robeson Community College. There is nothing that we cannot accomplish together for each student.
Jennifer Freeman, assistant superintendent, said two social workers were hired over the summer to help homeless students. The school system averages around 170 students, but has served around 77 thanks to COVID-19.
Freeman said a federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act liaison will be employed to help the PSRC better serve these students.
“These students have many levels of need, like all of our students,” Freeman said. “But then you add more and more to these students when they’re homeless. “
Federal funding will be used to pay for English learning teachers to serve the current 1,926 English learning students, she said. The current ratio is one teacher for 150 students. The positions hired will reduce the ratio to one in 70.
Outstanding children’s services contracts, transportation contracts and budget changes were also approved on Tuesday.
School board members also observed a minute of silence for Matthew Sessoms, a Lumberton High School graduate who died in a car crash on Monday, according to Craig Lowry.
Col. Greg Williamson, senior army instructor at Lumberton High School, told the Board of Education that the JROTC Camp Robeson program was a success. During the program, cadets from St. Pauls, Red Springs, Fairmont, Lumberton and Purnell Swett High Schools participated in activities at each school to broaden their skills through training such as CPR, orienteering and d ‘other components.
In other areas, Connie Locklear, director of the Indian education program, said the three-week summer enrichment camp was a success. There were 230 students in attendance, including Indian Student Volunteers in Our Nation, or VISION, students. During the camp, students traveled and attended various events and were able to interact with professionals who taught them about cybersecurity, technology and more.
After a lengthy closed-door session, board members approved the transfer of Andrew Davis from supervisor of social studies to director of programs of study and teaching, a post left vacant by retirement by Darlene Cummings. Fairmont High’s deputy principal Justin Dial has also been transferred, who will serve as principal of Rosenwald Elementary School.