School board holds first April meeting

On Tuesday, April 5, the Madison County School Board returned from spring break with much to discuss.

In public input, Virginia Hernandez took to the podium and expressed concerns about out-of-county field trips. Hernandez informed the board members that on March 11, students from the Madison County Central School went to the Kennedy Space Center and ate lunch at noon. When the students left the center at 5 p.m., many of the students and even the chaperones, according to Hernandez, complained that they were hungry, but the instructor on the bus said they would stop for food when they returned to Madison; however, the Kennedy Space Center is five hours from Madison. Hernandez stated that the students went home without eating after arriving in Madison around 10:30 p.m.

“I would rather get a call saying, 'we are running late because we are feeding your child' than to have my children get dropped off in the Winn-Dixie parking lot,” said Hernandez. “It shouldn't be that hard to do an all-call and have meal times.” Hernandez urged the board members to remember that the children have “little bellies” and some even have medical issues. Superintendent Doug Brown assured Hernandez that he would look into the issue.

After the meeting, some investigation was done on Hernandez' concern and it was discovered that before the trip, parents were given an itinerary outlining the trip. The itinerary stated when the children were advised to eat at the kiosks provided at the Kennedy Space Center. However, some children and chaperones did not follow the schedule as advised and the kiosks were closed when they chose to get food.

However, there were snacks provided on the bus, so those who did not eat had enough food to last them until they arrived back in Madison. Amy Kendrick, the administrator for the field trip, stated that a parent called her and complained that her child was hungry and she wanted the bus to stop somewhere. Kendrick explained that there were about three children who did not eat at the center. “The bus was running on time to arrive at Winn-Dixie,” said Kendrick. “To stop for fast food would have taken too much time. As an administrator, I had to choose between accommodating the three kids [who were hungry] or accommodating to the [large number of] parents who were waiting for their children to come home. Had there not been food on the bus, the call would've been different.” Kendrick added that there was clear communication given to the parents on the trip's schedule before the field trip took place.

Jay Lee of the Lions Club came forward next to invite the board to attend the club's Child Health and Safety Day that was held on Saturday, April 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lion's Pavilion on Lake Frances.

After public input was finished, the board approved one staff trip and 13 out-of-county student trips.

Brown went over two district transfer requests, informing the board that one student requested to be transferred from Madison to Jefferson County and another student who transferred from Madison to Taylor County wanted to start Florida Virtual School. These requests were approved unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was a request to purchase a Title 1 van for the school board, as there is a need for a new one since the old van has transmission issues. Brown presented two bids for the van; one bid was from Cass Burch in Valdosta and another was from a company in Green Cove Springs, Fl. The board members agreed to stay close to home and purchase the van from Cass Burch, as the dealership has always supported the Madison County School District and the bid from Cass Burch was the lowest offer.

Next, Mark Buescher of Buescher and Company, LLC and Ray Griffin presented the internal audit reports. Griffin also went over the financial reports for the month ending Feb. 29.

Willie Williams presented 30 screened school volunteers up for approval and several personnel changes and asked for permission to advertise several non-instructional positions. The board approved all of these items unanimously.

In construction project updates, Brown informed the board that the construction firm and architect involved in the construction of the Madison County High School had a discussion about the water pressure, as it presents safety issues. The pipes may be too small to handle the water pressure; if this is the case, the pipes will need to be replaced. Brown assured the board that the architect will assess the pressure in an adequate way.

The next school board meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 19 at 6 p.m. at the Madison County School District office, located at 210 NE Duval Ave.

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