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STEM+M academy hires new teachers

Board discusses legal policy

SOUTH POINT — The Board of Education for the Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School met on Tuesday morning to hear a presentation from the school’s legal counsel on board policy as well as legal and ethical requirements of the board.

Maria Markakis, a specialist in education law with Day Ketterer, discussed best practices, ethics and conflicts, liability, open meeting requirements, and legislative requirements with the board.

Markakis, who also represents other STEM schools, said that she would take care of keeping up with and updating those legislative requirements as they change and evolve, for instance as changes are made between No Child Left Behind and the newer Every Student Succeeds requirements, or as changes are made at the state level.

But if board members are ever unclear on any changes, she said, they should reach out to her.

“If you’re unsure,” Markakis warned the board, “call your attorney first.”

Director Jayshree Shah gave the board an update as well, noting that they have a total of 61 students enrolled and ready to start classes on August 14. Their first week, she said, will be a STEM immersion week, where students will launch immediately into project-based activities, which they will then present to their parents and others beginning at 1 p.m. on Aug. 18.

Shah also noted that the school was looking to secure more business partners, particularly in the field of engineering.

In board action, the school board moved to pass resolutions adopting the agenda, approving the minutes, approving ESC COG fiscal services agreements for fiscal year 2017-2018, approving board policy, approving free membership in the META purchasing co-op, approving the budget proposal for fiscal year 2017-2018, and approving the May and June 2017 financial reports.

The board also adopted resolutions approving the employment of Benjamin Larrabee as a full-time math teacher, and the employment of Abdelhak Haffoudhi as a part-time English teacher.

Larrabee, who has been a mathematics teacher in Kentucky since 2003, will also assist with technology related issues and baseline assessments for incoming students, as well as teaching computer classes. Larrabee said that though he has been a teacher for some time now, he was excited to do something other than “teaching to the tests,” and looked forward to the opportunities for authentic education that he felt the STEM environment could provide.

Shah told the board that the students who participated in Larrabee’s sample lesson as a part of his interview process told her that they “felt comfortable” communicating with Larrabee and asking him questions about the lesson. This, she said, was very important to her in bringing him forward as a candidate.

Haffoudhi, a native of Tunisia, first came to the region as a student at Marshall University, where he also taught Arabic and French. Following that, he returned to Tunisia where he taught English at the university level, before eventually taking a position in Canada, and then returning to the Tri-State area. Haffoudhi currently teaches part time at Rio Grande University as well, leading to his part time status with the STEM+M Academy. Haffoudhi has taught English as a second language (ESL), English as a foreign language (EFL), as well as English and literature to native English speakers, and holds Masters degrees in English literature and Linguistics.