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School Board prepares to address financial and safety issues

Mickey Starling: Greene Publishing, Inc.

The Madison County School Board opened its meeting on Monday, March 5 with two special session issues. First up was a proposal to replace the MCHS Cowgirls' concession stand, which was becoming a safety issue due to its deteriorating condition. The board approved the request for $3,000 to purchase a 16' x 12' aluminum building, which will include delivery and set up. “This is a terrible safety issue, and it will cost much more than $3,000 if someone gets hurt,” said board member, Susie Williamson. Board member VeEtta Hagan agreed and gave a motion approving the request, and board member Carol Gibson seconded the motion.

The board then addressed an issue that Madison County School Superintendent Dr. Karen Pickles had with an upcoming contract for external operation of the Madison County Central School. Some of the wording in the contract indicated the board might be liable for payments even if the contract was terminated. Board attorney, Tommy Reeves, proposed changes to the wording so that payments would be made only if MCCS receives a “D” or “F” grade in future assessments. The annual contract for external operation services is $610,000, requiring ten percent down and monthly payments to follow. Should MCCS become a “C” school or better, this would represent a huge savings to the board by terminating the external services contract.

Of other interests, the board examined their current 50/50 split policy on financing extracurricular transportation. Activities not receiving ticket sales, such as golf, tennis, track, band, cheerleading, and weightlifting are having difficulty paying for transportation. The board will also consider leasing vans for some sports travel because the buses often return from sporting events virtually empty because athletes often ride with family members on the trips home. Chief Financial Officer, Walter Copeland, will have a travel funds report ready for the next meeting as well as a comparison with what surrounding counties are doing with similar issues.

Board member Carol Gibson cleared up an issue reported from the previous meeting concerning Accelerated Reading (AR) testing at MCCS. “The AR program is separate from the Journey's reading program, and there are several teachers at MCCS who are using the AR testing program very well,” said Gibson.

Madison Creative Arts Academy (MCAA) Principal Janna Barrs approached the board for permission to increase enrollment for the next school year to reach or exceed 300 students.  MCAA is pursuing a USDA loan to fund the construction of additional, permanent classrooms. Williamson and Hagan voiced support for the requests, and the board seemed to be in agreement that the improvements were needed. Also submitted was a contract for summer school employment for 13 instructional and two non-instructional staff, totaling $60,000. The next meeting of the Madison County District School Board is scheduled for Monday, March 19, at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in the Board meeting room at 210 NE Duval St., in Madison.

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