Tuesday, March 21, 2023

New Hanover schools get $100k for full-time Title IX coordinator, training

The New Hanover County Board of Education's Title IX committee. has secured funding for a full-time coordinator position, as well as traning. (Port City Daily/Johanna Ferebee)
The New Hanover County Board of Education’s Title IX committee. has secured funding for a full-time coordinator position, as well as training. (Port City Daily/Johanna Ferebee)

A full-time Title IX position will allow schools to address a host of challenges, including training, updating policy, and investigating possible violations — now that the board has the money to make it a reality.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The New Hanover County Board of Education’s Title IX committee has secured funding for a full-time coordinator to oversee training for students, staff, and administrators.

Related: A closer look at the New Hanover Board of Education’s new Title IX committee

The issue was raised early this year by the board’s newly formed Title IX committee, which developed in response to complaints about how the school district had handled Title IX issues and the lack of a Title IX policy or available online information.

Additionally, given the complicated – and frequently evolving – case history around Title IX, the need to adjust training for a variety of age groups, and the sheer number of students in New Hanover County, some had suggested a full-time Title IX director or coordinator was necessary. For comparison, UNCW has about 10,000 fewer students and had a full-time director of Title IX compliance. At New Hanover County Schools, that job belongs to Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday, who also has numerous other administrative duties as deputy superintendent.

Funding, job description, turnaround time

In March, Chairwoman Lisa Estep and Board Member Nelson Beaulieu said the committee was considering a full-time position but hadn’t made a decision. Tuesday, Estep said committee members had wanted the position early on, but had to wait for funding — which they received on Monday, when New Hanover County commissioners voted unanimously to provide around $100,000 in funding as part of the county budget.

“It was something that we had really wanted to do since the beginning of the [Title IX] committee meetings, and I had talked with [Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley] and Nelson [Beaulieu] about it, but until we had the official budget in hand we couldn’t really announce. But it was obvious that there was enough work for this individual to do that we could carve out that position,” Estep said.

“We spent so much time talking about what needs to be done, what holes need to be filled, what gaps exist, so there’s no better group to determine what should make up that position.”
— Board ChairWOMAN Lisa Estep

The committee has set an “ambitious, quick-turnaround” time table for the position, Estep said, aiming to have a candidate recommended to the board in time for its August meeting. In the meantime, Estep said the committee will fine tune the official job description.

“I wanted the help of the committee because, for me, all those people around the table own that position. We spent so much time talking about what needs to be done, what holes need to be filled, what gaps exist, so there’s no better group to determine what should make up that position,” Estep said.

Part of the job will be overseeing Title IX training for students, staff, coaches, and other school employees, as well as grant writing and keeping up with changes in Title IX case law and policy. But Estep said the job could also include other work to protect students in other ways, including working with NHCS Behavioral Specialist Judy Stubblefield on bullying investigations, as well as the board’s equity committee, which focuses on racial and disability discrimination.

Estep said the committee will consult job descriptions of local experts, including CFCC Title IX Coordinator Robert McGee and UNCW Title IX Coordinator Amber Resetar, both of whom are committee members. The committee will also consider federal suggestions, but will ultimately “take all of those and also make it our own,” Estep said.

Details of the positions have not been finalized, but Estep said she expected around $60,000 to $65,000 to go towards the coordinator role and $35,000 to $40,000 to go for training modules. While some training, like the middle school module adapted from Coastal Horizons, won’t cost the district anything, other modules, including those for high school students, may require some funding.

What led to the new position?

The creation of the Title IX position dates back to complaints – and serious allegations – that the administration, including Holliday, have not handled past issues correctly; these complaints included the request for internal investigations and Holliday’s resignation.

Related: New Hanover Sheriff’s Office investigating citizen group’s allegations against school administrators, principal

However, Estep said that the decision to create a full-time role wasn’t the result of external pressure.

“We’ve listened to everyone and certainly the start of the conversation was ‘should we do an independent investigation’ – but all of this work came together from conversations on our own. We didn’t have to have these conversations, we chose to. I think that’s an important point, you don’t ever want to have forced conversations. We didn’t come to this through litigation, we didn’t come to this because people were dragging us there. We came to this because we thought these conversations were important,” Estep said.

The new Title IX position won’t involve a pay-cut for Holliday, NHCS spokesperson Valita Quattlebaum confirmed. Holliday’s role as Title IX coordinator didn’t involve a salary increase as the position was “just a part of his many duties,” Quattlebaum said.

Estep said ultimately she’s seen the Title IX committee meetings as being positive, and said she thinks NHCS’s Title IX program will be a model for other districts, in part due to the work of Carousel Center Executive Director Amy Feath, NHCS Supervisor of School Counseling and Social Work Tanya Jordan, Coastal Horizons, the Rape Crisis Center and others.

“These Title IX committee meetings have been great – what they’ve led to is great,” Estep said. “To me, there’s a lot to be proud of, in terms of where we are and where we’re going. I don’t think there’s anything like this in the state.”

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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