The first monthly meeting of the Board for newly appointed interim school superintendent Dr. Mike Newton was filled with challenges, beginning with how to raise test scores at Jones County High School.
Dr. Vicki Rogers presented the Board with reports of CRCT and Georgia High School Graduation scores for Jones County. She said the graphs for the tests are on the eboard website.
Rogers said both Jones County middle schools did exceptionally well, surpassing the state average overall, and the high school’s overall score was 74.6 percent. The problem with the high school scores is the breakdown of sub-populations.
She said at this point the GHSGT scores would keep the school from making Annual Yearly Progress benchmarks, but summer retests are allowed.
“We hope the retests will help. Math is a struggle in every grade,” Rogers stated.
Newton said the CRCT report will be presented at next month’s Board meeting. He talked about leadership training that took place June 4-5, with all principals, assistant principals, and instructional coaches.
The superintendent said, going forward, the plan is to work together with the Continuous Improvement Program (CIP), monitor the plan, and take a good look at the ‘brand’ of the Jones County School System.
Rogers said she saw a renewed enthusiasm among all the attendees.
“We are all focused. We are all on the same page and are shooting at the same target,” she said.
Board member Alfred Pitts attended the training and agreed.
“Our main objective is to make the school system the best for the children. We need to give teachers the idea of what they need to do,” he said.
Newton stated that his vision is success for all — first and foremost the students.
“Children can’t be successful if teachers and staff are not successful. The central office staff offers direction and are partners in progress,” he said.
Newton said the administration is working hard the budget, and he asked for a work session July 7 at 4 p.m. He acknowledged the work of Tonya Merritt in putting the information together and said more work will be done between now and the next meeting.
“All budget priorities will have to align with the CIP plans for each school,” he said.
Newton said changes have been made for use of federal ARRA funds, and he is in the process of finding out the details. He said the funds will be used for special education and are expected to be in excess of $1 million.
“That’s about twice what we have received before,” Newton said.
Maintenance and Operations Director Ken Barnes reported on the progress of the construction of the new elementary school. He said the project is a few days behind because of the rainy weather, but he is confident that the company will catch up. He said the next issue is the naming of the school because the signage has to be ordered.
Teachers of the year
Newton said 11 school system employees are retiring this year, and a reception will be held for them at next month’s school board meeting. He said each school has chosen a teacher of the year to compete in the 2010 systemwide competition.
The teachers selected are: Melinda Kitchens, Dames Ferry Elementary School; Mallary Greer, Gray Elementary School; Methina Chambers, Mattie Wells Elementary School; Shelly Dunlap, Wells Primary School; Vicki Thigpen, Clifton Ridge Middle School; Ann Taylor, Gray Station Middle School; Cameron Tibbetts, Ninth Grade Academy; and Linda Bowden, Jones County High School.
Newton announced that he will be reaching out to teachers and the community through two advisory groups. The teacher’s group will be made up of this year’s teacher of the year candidates and another teacher from each school selected by the principal. He said another advisory group will consist of a member of each school’s council and community stakeholders.
“We want to form a partnership between the Board and the community,” Newton said.
Newton recommended that the name of the new elementary school be Turnerwoods Elementary as the result of a survey posted on the school system website and another on The Jones County News website. He said the results on the two sites mirrored one another. The school site received 391 votes with 56 percent voting for Turnerwoods Elementary, and the newspaper website received 76 votes with 53 percent for the name.
The Board voted unanimously for the name selected in the surveys.
Transportation Director Rudolph Collins spoke to the Board about an alternative to purchasing new school buses.
“We know we need to save money. The funds are just not there for new buses, and we are looking at alternatives. We are suggesting the possibility of refurbishing buses,” he said.
Collins explained that the state sends counties funds to maintain buses for 10 years, and after that it is up to the school system. He said he has spoken to other transportation directors, and most of them are looking at refurbishing buses.
“We’ll take a good look at the fleet and select the ones that are good and could last a long time if refurbished. We can select what we want replaced – engines, transmissions – and if we need them repainted and lettered,” he said.
Collins said the cost to completely refurbish eight buses would be $19,124 per bus. He asked for a ‘facelift’ for another eight buses to include the painting and lettering at a total cost of $43,000.
The total for all of the work would be $196,803 in comparison with the cost of a new bus, which is $76,000 for a regular bus and $98,000 for a special education bus.
“We’d be looking at eight practically new buses for a fraction of the cost,” Collins added.
Board chairman Ted Stone said refurbishing the buses will still leave the school system in the hole but could help make it through the next couple of years.
Collins said the state will not cover the maintenance on the redone buses.
“But I feel better that we are putting a better product on the road. We have a company in Macon that can have the buses ready to go when school starts,” he said.
Newton said the idea makes sense.
Stone said the administration and Board members have been working on the budget.
“We are not where we need to be, but we have two more budget meetings. We are not going to lose people or programs. The next two years are going to be tough. We have our next Board meeting in July, and if we have no county digest, we still have to set our budget. It’s like shooting at a moving target,” he explained.