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BOE elects Battle chairman for 19th year

By Diane Glidewell

dglidewell@jacksonprogress-argus.com

The Butts County Board of Education held its January meeting on Monday, January 4, the first day for students and faculty to return to classes after the Christmas break. The BOE began the new year by reelecting Ernest Battle to the position of chairman of the board; this will be his 19th consecutive year as chairman.

"Thank you for your confidence, ladies and gentlemen," said Mr. Battle. John Morris was reelected vice chairman of the BOE.

When the BOE meeting was opened for comments from the public, Rebecca Bruce spoke to the board of a bullying problem her child has experienced at Jackson Elementary School and of the school administration's lack of response to her repeated efforts to discuss the problem.

Mrs. Bruce became aware of the problem when her child was punched in the face in the car riders' dismissal area in late October or early November. She stated the staff monitor on duty neither informed Mrs. Bruce of the incident nor cared for the child's injuries.

For about six weeks Mrs. Bruce parked and walked into the school to escort her child to the car, meanwhile leaving weekly messages for Principal Sharon Ohonba asking to talk with her. When she received no response, she called Butts County Superintendent Lynda White and State School Superintendent Kathy Cox. She was referred to Jeff Hodgins of the State bullying hotline, who told her a conference would be held.

When Mr. and Mrs. Bruce come to the conference, they were met by the school social worker who said the conference was to discuss attendance and she knew nothing about bullying. Mrs. Bruce said her child has had perfect attendance since kindergarten.

Mrs. Bruce has been told she may no longer park and walk her child to the car because of safety concerns. Her request to transfer her child to Stark Elementary has been denied because it was not a hardship transfer. The classroom teacher says the children clash and tries to be aware of the situation. Additional staff has been added to the car rider dismissal area, but cold weather has brought more children into the same waiting area. When Mrs. Bruce's child has talked to a monitor, he has been told not to tattle.

"I know these are children and I had hoped they would work it out," said Mrs. Bruce. "But it has been on-going, and the school has not followed its own procedures on bullying."

"The Superintendent will work on this and get back with us," said Mr. Battle.

Wayne Smith retires

The BOE expressed appreciation to Wayne Smith for 29 years of dedicated service to the Butts County School System. He retired effective December 31 as Supervisor of Maintenance. Mr. Smith was presented a plaque honoring him as a faithful and dedicated employee.

Other awards

The Georgia Department of Education School Nutrition Program awarded certificates to Daughtry Elementary School and Jackson Elementary School for their high percentage of students participating in the lunch program. DES averaged serving 89 percent of its students lunch each day, and JES averaged serving lunch to 91 percent of its students each day. The state average for elementary schools is 85 percent.

The Butts County School System was recognized by the Georgia Council for Administrators of Special Education for outstanding efforts to improve the performance of students with disabilities based on data from the 2008-2009 school year. Butts County met the state target for special education students in the least restrictive environment graduating with regular diplomas. Butts County was not only successful in the most recent school year but also has increased its percentage of graduates each year for students with disabilities.

Policy changes

The BOE adopted the policy change regarding the school year which had been on 30-day review. Rather than requiring 180 days for students and 190 work days for teachers and certified staff, the new Butts County policy for establishing the school year will be to require minimal days as established by state policy each year. The board also unanimously approved a new Reduction in Force (RIF) policy and rescinded the previous policy. These two policies had been on 30-day review prior to the vote at this meeting. Factors to be considered in a RIF plan now may include the professional expertise, effectiveness and overall job performance of individual employees based on observation and knowledge of supervisors. Length of continuous service will be considered only when the above factors are equal among employees. Employees terminated due to a RIF shall have no priority for re-employment.

Two policies were placed on 30-day review; changes will be voted on by the board at the next meeting. The policy on buildings and grounds safety emergency drills is being revised to reflect current facilities, phone numbers and other information as well as to bring it in line with state law and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. The policy on paid leave donations has a recommended change to waive the 10-day waiting period on requests for donated leave more than once within the same school year for the same diagnosis and to clarify the number of days which can be donated.

Other business

Disposal of surplus property was unanimously approved by the BOE, including seven school buses purchased from 1987 to 1995 and books from JES no longer used in the curriculum.

School nutrition program food and supply bids from Glover, Southeastern, USFoods, and Samples were approved. The financial report for December with expenditures of $1,882,738 was approved. The board also approved an amended budget for fiscal year 2010, with the budget for the school system reduced form $30,437,405 to $30,286,059. The largest reduction in the budget, over $200,000, was under "instruction;" $226,000 was added to the budget as a transfer from reserve funds.

Requests for use of facilities were approved for Willie Weaver to use the Rufus Adams Auditorium on June 12 for a gospel program and for Laodicea Baptist Church to use the Stark Elementary School Cafeteria for a banquet.

Informational items

The annual nation-wide count of students receiving special education services on December 1 enumerated 461 students, ages 3 - 21, in the Butts County System receiving special education service, with each child counted only once even if receiving multiple services.

Superintendent White reported the school system is nearing resolution of problems noted in the August 12, 2009 inspection of the Jackson High School athletic field grandstands by Fire Safety Compliance Inspector David Ellington. Correction of certain deficiencies which were in compliance when the stands on the home side were installed in May 1989 are being waived. These include: Steps in the stands are not uniform in tread width; there are aisles not at least 48" in width; there are aisles without handrails. Other specifics cited in the inspection have been corrected.

"We are going to have to do something with rails," said Board member Roland Lee. "Older folks need them."

Supt. White reported Infinite Campus, the on-line system which provides parent access to student information, went live in December, first at Jackson High School and a few days later at all other Butts County schools. There have been 295 hits at JHS, 248 hits at Henderson Middle School, 55 at DES, 48 at SES, 47 at JES, four at North Mulberry Academy, and two at Rainbow Center Pre-kindergarten. "That is a lot of activity, and we want more," said White.