WWAY sits down with new NHCS superintendent

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — With more changes on the way soon for New Hanover County Schools, the new superintendent has been busy since he got to town. Dr. Charles Foust has a little more than two weeks officially under his belt.

Foust has been tasked with leading the district through a global pandemic, while also handling a sex abuse scandal. He explains how he plans on handling all of this.

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“One, you cannot, by any means, touch a child That is not what your job is,” Foust said. “Your job is to educate. Your job is not to get in a relationship with a child.”

Foust faces several challenges as he embarks on his journey as superintendent. Arguably, the biggest controversy is the lingering sex scandal that came to a head this year. Three school district employees were each charged with sex crimes against student within two years.

“The first thing is restoring trust within the district, and the biggest thing we can do now is educate, educate, educate,” Foust said.

Foust says he wants every person in the district trained on Title IX, as well as Title VI, which he says deals with bullying and harassment.

“Making sure the board is trained,” he said. “Making sure then our senior staff is trained, every employee is trained, and then we want to provide training for our students. So that is most important for me.”

As far as communication goes, Foust urges people to continue to come forward if they’re aware of any type of misconduct.

“It’s unfair for students to have to go through, or experience something other than a learning experience,” he said. “That’s not what teaching is about.”

Another issue Foust is facing, is the same challenge districts across the state and nation are trying to tackle – educating during a pandemic.

“We know the best learning takes place in house,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe while they’re doing it.”

With the school board’s decision Tuesday night to shift to Plan B on October 6th, for most students, that gives schools just three weeks to be ready.

“So the first thing is developing the teachers to ensure they feel comfortable delivering the instruction,” Foust said. “The safety is not an issue right now.”

Foust says his main concern is meshing remote learning with in-person learning as seamlessly as possible.

“We’ve got to take small steps for this,” he said. “Of course is was an abrasive stop for learning when COVID kicked in, so we were thrown in and said, ‘Okay, stop. We’re going remote.'”

On Tuesday night, school board member David Wortman suggested doing an A-B hybrid schedule, so students would be in the classroom every week, for two days at a time. The cohorts would be split up with Monday/Tuesday attendance of one cohort, Wednesday as a remote day for everyone, followed by Thursday/Friday attendance of the second cohort.

“That’s easier said than done to turn it on a dime,” Foust said.

Foust says they had previously planned for the three-week rotating schedule, and would have to re-route students and schedules. But he hopes they can evaluate the situation once Plan B gets underway, and make a recommendation of an A-B plan to the board by November.

Foust says there are going to be glitches moving forward, but he wants kids to get back in the classroom.

Throughout this week, he says they’ll be working with teachers and staff to help them prepare for the shift to Plan B, and make sure they’re comfortable teaching under this plan.

In regards to the numerous allegations of sexual abuse, Foust says everything has been turned over to law enforcement, and the biggest thing they can do now is educate everyone involved.