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Madison County School Board:

Grant troubles and GES has a hole in their roof

On Tuesday, April 7, the School Board of Madison County came together for their bi-monthly meeting. This time was special, for they met in the media center of Madison County Central School in order to present elementary, middle and high school students from the Madison School District with certificates acknowledging their outstanding progress in the program, iReady; a program geared towards math and reading. “Our students have been doing some outstanding work,” said Superintendent Doug Brown. The students who received certificates were the highest scorers in either math or reading and, some, scored highest in both subjects. After the award presentation, citizen, Alfred Barfield, approached the Board on behalf of the Madison County Recreation Association, a non-profit charter organization. He asserted that they were interested in the obsolete property which was to be disposed of by the School District, adding that it would benefit their after school programs and help them reach their goal of helping kids become better and greater. The School Board unanimously voted to allow the Madison County Recreation Board to sift through the unwanted property and to report back what would be taken and what would be left in the hands of the School District, which they would address at the next meeting. After consenting the agenda, the Board moved on to agenda items up for individual consideration. The first item was the approval of student trips. The Board unanimously approved the field trips with no further discussion. Next, Superintendent Brown announced that FDOE's Bureau of Family and Community Outreach has approved the School District's Performance-Based Exit Option that allows students an alternative strategy to graduate from high school. Then, he addressed the Board on iReady's Spring diagnostic. Brown pointed out that iReady's statistics show that the students who participate in the program have increased their scores significantly, with elementary's scores ranking above the national average. According to the statistics obtained from iReady, Madison School District students who spend more than 45 minutes per week participating in iReady learning, are doing exceptionally well and have exhibited much improvement. Superintendent Brown hopes that more teachers and students will begin to participate in the iReady program, as the program is currently optional. Next, the School Board reviewed and passed FDOE's edits and approved copy of the 2014-2015 Instructional Personnel Evaluation System. Then, the board approved the agreement with Uchicago Impact, LLC for 5Essentials, the revised job description for a new Chief Academic Officer, a list of screened school volunteers, personnel changes, staffing table revisions and permission to advertise for non-instructional positions. Superintendent Brown proceeded to update the board on the current construction project, stating cold lunches would be served at Madison County High School beginning April 27 so the kitchen can be closed, allowing for construction so the cafeteria can be finished in a timely manner. The new roof at MCHS, which is by far the biggest and most noteable change at the school, will be constructed soon, as well as two new entry ways on both sides of the school. Other changes the Superintendent mentioned are new water tanks which will be located near the visitors' side of the baseball field, as well as infrastructure changes such as plumbing and electric. Brown asserted that the new changes would be aesthetically pleasing as well as trend-setting. Board member, VeEtta Hagan, spoke up, asserting she had received phone calls from parents who were concerned about the unfinished construction project on the roof of Greenville Elementary's gym. She informed the Superintendent that funds were allotted to the construction project last year and it has yet to be completed. Parents and staff are concerned for the safety of the children and have requested a time frame for when the roof will be finished. “Are our students at Greenville Elementary valuable or not?” questioned Hagan. Superintendent Brown claimed he could not provide a time frame immediately, but he would see to it that the problem is addressed before the next meeting, where he would then be able to provide the Board with more information. Next, it was time for Superintendent items. Brown informed the Board that Madison County Central School, since they moved from an F to a D ranking, received around $112,000 from the state. “Those funds normally become available [schools are notified of the incoming funds] sometime in October or November and you generally have from that point until February 1, for the SAC [School Advisory Committee] and the school to decide how the money will be spent,” said Brown. He asserted that they did not receive notification in enough time, and other districts have run into the problem as well. Superintendent Brown stressed the importance of fairly and equitably distributing the money to ensure classroom teachers and staff receive their fair share. “We need to decide once and for all how we can best deal with this situation,” said Brown. “I thought it was set forth that all the teachers that taught in the school during the school year were the ones who were entitled to it,” stated Board member Bart Alford. Attorney, Tom Reeves, spoke up, asserting, “What we should be doing is contacting FDOE and finding out their legal recommendation, but they're not responding so we are left to our own devices.” He continued, “The way the statute reads is that the schools who are rewarded this money are to have their staff and SAC committee get together and come up with a plan... in the statute it says it has to be distributed by that plan and what's very confusing to me is this: it says if they cannot reach an agreement by February 1, then they have a fault provision that says that it has to be divided among the current classroom teachers... but it's going to stop right here with y'all and you're going to have to decide how you want to interpret that statute and you ought to have been given guidance from FDOE, but they're not, so once again you guys have a tough call.” Board member Kenny Hall spoke up, saying, “It's really simple. Let the committee get together and whatever they come up with, that's what we'll do.” He continued, “We've got the money, so what you do is let the SAC do their job and let them decide what they're going to do.” Hagan added, “and let the administrators stay out of it,” as the decision must be an agreement between faculty and the SAC committee. “If it was up to me, every single person who was employed here last year would receive money for their contribution – I don't care what they do,” said Superintendent Brown. “But right now, what frustrates me is that we're being pointed at [as at fault] when this is statutory-- the statute clearly says that current classroom teachers are the ones that get the money, so we have to sit here and figure out what a classroom teacher is and look in the statute. A classroom teacher is instructional personnel... We're trying to stay within statutes so that we can do this the appropriate way.” Hall retorted, “I'm not going to sit and listen to a bunch of lawyers' opinions on something.” He continued, “If they don't like it, they need to take all of the money back or we're going to do what was intended to do... We've got to accept whatever the staff and SAC decides. They can decide to give it to the teachers who were here or weren't here last year; it's up to them.” Alford asserted that, when it was determined the school was gaining a letter grade, the ball should have started rolling then, rather than waiting until the last minute to decide on monetary distribution. Ray Griffin clarified that FDOE had withheld the information until Friday, January 23, but the emails weren't received until after the weekend, providing only five business days to respond. He asserted he made contact with FDOE, who apologized for the delay and recommended they stick to statute. Hall proceeded to make a motion to amend the agenda to allow the Board to vote on the issue immediately instead of waiting until a later date. He was seconded by Hagan. The board voted that the SAC committee be given the opportunity to decide how to distribute the funds and then present their proposal to the Board at the next meeting, so they can vote on it and checks can be cut. The meeting was then closed to the public in order to discuss two expulsions. The next Madison County School Board meeting is April 21 at 6 p.m. at the County Office on Hwy. 53 North.

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