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News Save our Summers-NC and Highlands parent withdraw petition

Superintendent Dr. Dan BrigmanPetition involving Macon County School District calendar 

The lawsuit involving the Macon County School System that was filed earlier this summer by the non-profit organization, Save Our Summers—North Carolina (SOSNC) and Macon County parent, Sabrina Hawkins, was withdrawn on Monday.

According to Macon County Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman, now that the petition has been withdrawn, the school system can shift its focus to better educate the children within the county. “We are relieved that we can continue focusing on teaching and are able to save the money that we would have had to spend on legal counsel to better serve our students,” said Brigman.

Hawkins teamed up with SOS-NC to take legal action against the NC State Board of Education for granting waivers to each school in the Macon County school district which allowed the 2011-2012 school year be placed on a non-traditional calendar. SOS-NC filed a preliminary injunction to petition to the state to reconsider granting the non-traditional calendar waiver. On July 26, State Administrative Law Judge Joe L. Webster denied that request, and all schools in Macon County were allowed to open their doors to students on Aug. 4.

According to the resolution passed by the school board in July, the case had originally been scheduled to be heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings last week, but due to scheduling conflicts, the case had been continued until an undetermined date. In the meantime, no other formal court action had occurred regarding the lawsuit. According to a press release sent from SOS-NC announcing the decision to withdraw the petition, although the organization is not pursuing further legal action, they are still adamant that Macon County violated the law: “This system- wide attempt to evade the school calendar law violates the intent of N.C. General Statute 115C-84.2(d), which states that, ‘waiver requests for educational purposes shall not be used to accommodate systemwide classroom preferences.’”

In July, Henning noted that a waiver was granted to every school in the district for educational purposes and that there was no districtwide waiver. The waivers permitted the schools to institute weeklong, voluntary remedial/ enrichment intersession periods three times a year.

“We have felt all along that the State Board of Education's actions were correct and we are happy that it was dropped,” said Macon County School District's attorney, John Henning Jr. “We can now save the time, money and effort in defending that action, and better direct our resources for the citizens of Macon County.”

According to the press release, SOS-NC and Hawkins had to withdraw their petitions because they were unable to justify the large legal expenses of a single-district trial since August 25th had already passed. Therefore, with no decision having been made yet on the merits of the case, they have decided it would be a better use of resources to withdraw the Macon County-specific case and focus their efforts on all potential threats to the School Calendar law next year.

SOS-NC plans to actively continue monitoring the Macon County school district and are prepared to intervene should the school board choose to re-apply next year for an improper waiver. “The legal position of SOSNC remains strong, and school districts should take note that any efforts to evade the school calendar law will be closely scrutinized in the waiver process,” reads the press release.

According to Henning, the school system will go through the normal calendar creation process that it does every year and will develop the next year's calendar according to the needs of the students within the district.

Dr. Brigman noted that the fully supports the districts calendar committee and will be working with them to develop the calendar for next year. “I rely heavily on our calendar committee to develop a calendar that focuses on instructional programs for the students while taking weather and other possible interferences into consideration,” said Brigman. “Over the next few months we will be following proper procedure, as we always do, in developing the calendar for next year.”

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