CCS student programs face changes

Faced with uncertain funding options from state budget-makers, the Catawba County Schools Board of Education held a meeting Monday to discuss its choices for the 2011-12 budget.

The board talked about options for cutting back system expenses while preserving jobs, which forced them to consider changes to two educational programs for students.

Board members entertained the idea of moving the Green Room Academy of Drama (GRAD) program to Maiden High School's facilities to save costs on the magnet school for students interested in pursuing theater arts.

"It's sort of like a magnet school," said interim superintendent Glenn Barger.

The program was set to start during the 2011-12 school year through a partnership between CCS and the Green Room Community Theater and its new facility at the Old Post Office Playhouse in Newton.

To save costs, however, board members discussed moving the project to Maiden High School to better utilize the system's existing resources.

Sylvia Schnople, GRAD program director, collected about $11,000 in grant money for the program's costs. That amount, however, won't cover the $59,000 needed to fund one position in the GRAD program, as well as other costs for additional positions, renting fees, transportation costs and food needs for students.

CCS school board member Sherry Butler is the Green Room's executive director, and she supports moving the GRAD program to MHS.

"It's doesn't have anything to do with whether I believe in (the program), but everything to do with money," Butler said.

Several board members agreed that Maiden's auditorium facilities are among the best in the school system, making the location ideal for CCS students interested in pursuing careers in dramatic arts.

Butler said the Green Room already supports other CCS high school drama programs by lending costumes and props, and the GRAD program at MHS is no different.

MHS and Bunker Hill High School are two CCS schools who don't have a theater program at the school, and moving the GRAD program to MHS could fulfill the need for a theater program at MHS.

Transportation and food costs will be eliminated if the program is held at MHS, because students can eat in the school's cafeteria and rely on existing transportation outlets to travel to the school.

Butler said the MHS auditorium isn't being utilized to its fullest extent, and she hopes opening the school to the GRAD program will encourage students from other schools to use the facility.

Another system program facing changes is Catawba County Schools and Lenoir-Rhyne University's High School Scholar's Academy. The program allows high school students to get college credit at LRU while earning their highschool diploma.

This is the program's third year in existence, and CCS pays for 50 percent of costs associated with program for the system's 18 enrolled students.

LRU tuition for high school scholars costs $1,000 a semester, which means CCS is responsible for $1,000 a year for each participating student. Students' families pay for remaining costs.

CCS assumed 100 percent of costs associated with the program during its first year. This funding came from an anonymous donor who gave CCS money with no strings attached, Barger said. That money was used, and now CCS must determine the future of the program.

Board members entertained the idea of letting parents assume the tuition costs associated with student participation in the scholar's academy. As part of the proposed plan, CCS will continue to pay for the instructor who teaches part-time at Fred T. Foard High School and Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Currently, 18 CCS and two Hickory Public Schools students are in the
scholar's academy. The board also mentioned the possibility of asking HPS to assume costs associated with the program if the number of HPS students continues to increase.