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Butts Schools getting Baptist Health Care grant

By Diane Glidewell

dglidewell@myjpa.com

The Butts County Board of Education held its February meeting on Monday evening, Feb. 7, with all board members present, and Faye O'Dell spoke to the board about the $10,000 grant the Butts County school system has been awarded from the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation.

Superintendent Lynda White explained that the board had approved working with O'Dell on the grant several months ago. O'Dell retired as a teacher with the Butts County school system and is a member of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation Board of Trustees, in her first year of a five-year term. The grant to Butts County Schools is to be used to purchase materials for the Health and Human Development program at Henderson Middle School, which uses the "Choosing the Best" curriculum.

O'Dell explained that Georgia Baptist had made the decision five years ago to sell its hospital and go outside of the brick and mortar building in providing services to people. It has provided grants in all of Georgia's 159 counties and in 192 countries, affecting 42,000 volunteers. She noted that the downturn in the economy had affected the funds available, but that the assets were now growing again.

O'Dell said she had worked with Associate Superintendent Sheree Bryant in determining how Butts County Schools could best use health-related funds and had subsequently applied for funds for the high school and middle school and had received them for the middle school. The curriculum for which the grant is awarded deals with abstinence and also covers related topics such as dealing with drugs, according to O'Dell.

"The science teachers do a great job with the curriculum," said O'Dell, who taught in the middle school for many years.

The grant will be awarded at a luncheon at the foundation's office in Duluth on Feb. 10. BOE Chairman Ernest Battle asked if parents were to be informed that students can opt out of the curriculum with parents' written consent, and White replied in the affirmative.

"Thank you for all of your efforts," said Board member Johnny Morris to O'Dell.

The board recognized Julie Castellanos of Jackson High School and congratulated her for her selection as the Georgia Science Teachers Association Teacher of Promise for the state at the high school level. The board also recognized and congratulated Tracy Valentini of Daughtry Elementary School, and her 2010 Georgia Stock Market Team regional winners, Bailey Smith, Olivia Varallo, and Camden Spear.

Valentini, Varallo, DES Principal Joyce Rowe, and Olivia's parents, Patrick and Laurie Varallo, were present at the meeting. Valentini explained that the competition was a 10-week project working with individual stocks on the New York Stock Exchange in real time, with the stocks moving. The teams researched the stocks using investor.com and other sites. The student teams began with $100,000. The winning team made $80,000 in profit managing its portfolio over the 10 weeks.

Olivia, who is in fifth grade, was asked by White what she learned from the Stock Market project. "You have to think big. We did research on stocks. My team and I worked well together; we were cooperative with each other," responded Olivia. "We were careful with our money. We did both safe moves and risks."

The board unanimously approved the list of surplus property for disposal. Board member Clifford Marshall noted that there were a number of items from the technology offices of Jackson High School and Henderson Middle School on the list and asked if these items would be replaced. School System Director of Technology Greg Chandler replied that the items had already been replaced as needed and that parts were salvaged from items no longer functional to repair other pieces of equipment.

"We put it out there as surplus," said White. "If someone wants it, we will sell it." She noted that the school system had sold surplus items from textbooks to school buses.

The board approved the Board Member Code of Ethics Policy that had been on 30-day review, with the amendment of adding the paragraphs on Conflict of Interest, which had been omitted from the copy provided at the January meeting. White explained that the policy is to comply with state law as given in recently passed Senate Bill 84.

All members of the board voted in favor of a three-year contract with eChalk for the school system's web hosting. There were eight bids for the contract, but White recommended remaining with the current provider, eChalk, because of the cost of training with a new provider and additional costs for modules, software, and setup. There were savings of about $600 per year for signing a three-year agreement. The cost will be filed under eRate, which should pay 80 percent of the cost of hosting, with the cost to Butts County Schools being $6,365 per year.

The board received only one bid to replace network electronics at Henderson Middle School and voted to accept the bid from MTC, Inc. of Warner Robins. The proposal has been filed under eRate to qualify for 80 percent funding, making the cost to the school system $9,715.

White recommended that the board enter into an agreement with Expense Reduction Analysts, a company which analyzes school system expenses. There is no cost to the school system unless the company is able to find total savings of at least nine percent over 24 months. If the company is successful, the system will pay 50 percent of the total savings to Expense Reduction Analysts. The board voted to table the proposal until a meeting could be held for a representative to talk to the board about the company.

As an informational item, White told the board the Butts County school system Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) expires in June 2012. "If we don't want an interruption in SPLOST, we have a time table we must adhere to. We can no longer hold special elections for SPLOST," White said.

The two dates that SPLOST can be placed on a ballot to prevent interruption are Nov. 8, 2011 and Feb. 7, 2012. Board member Morris said that the General Assembly may eliminate the Feb. 7 date and that the General Assembly may change how SPLOST can be used, including allowing SPLOST IV to be used to help retire the debt of SPLOST III.

For SPLOST to be on the November ballot, the board must adopt a referendum resolution asking for it in late July to mid-August.

White told the board members there will be a follow-up to the Economics of Education Summit held last March on Thursday, March 3 from 11 a.m., to 1 p.m., at the Fellowship Hall of the Jackson United Methodist Church, 409 E. Third St., Jackson. It is sponsored by the BOE, Partners for Smart Growth, and the Butts County Chamber of Commerce. The committees formed at the first summit will report, and Dr. Steve Dollinger will present current information using Butts County demographics.

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On the net:

Butts County Schools: www.butts.k12.ga.us