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New Hanover County school system discusses budget cuts and test scores

READ MORE: Discussions for New Hanover County around school budget cuts and test scores
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There is a lot going on in the New Hanover County school system. The state released Adequate Yearly Progress results yesterday, and local school leaders say the low numbers do not reflect how much students are improving. On top of that, the school board needs to trim hundreds of thousands of dollars from the budget. Mary Hazel Small is New Hanover County Schools' Finance Officer. She and her committee have quite the task ahead of them; guide the school board in cutting about $360,000 from its budget, as requested by the county, with the possibility of state cuts to come. She made some recommendations at Thursday's school board meeting, none of which include firing anyone. "We're only looking at if a position becomes vacant, whether or not we need to fill it, or if we're able to keep it vacant for several months, we'll save that money," she said. Other ideas are to reduce workshop budgets, and to review all phases of the school system's operations to see where costs can be cut. School Board member, Nick Rhodes, said this is not an easy decision. "We have to make sure that wherever the cuts occur that we try in everything we can to make sure we don't impact service delivery to our students," Rhodes said. Thursday's meeting falls on the same day North Carolina’s Adequate Yearly Progress results were released, which is testing required under No Child Left Behind. Only 10 out of 38 New Hanover County schools that were tested made the grade, and schools spokesperson Valita Quattlebaum said it is because the standards are higher than in years past. Students are tested as subgroups, based on categories like race, their economic situation, and learning disabilities. If one subgroup does not pass both math and reading tests, the entire school is considered a failure. Quattlebaum said, "We are up to the challenge and the kids are ready. They're going to do it. I have no doubt that within a few years you'll see a dramatic difference in these results." Quattlebaum mentioned that there will be more resources poured into the schools that did not pass, and school officials say that help will not be affected by the budget cuts.

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