BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Commission could appoint someone to fill the anticipated vacancy on the County Board of Education by as early as the end of the year.
Former school board Chairman Roger Jones announced his resignation, effective Oct. 24, at the board's September meeting.
Jones cited his intention to move to Knoxville, where he is currently employed, as the cause for his resignation.
Commissioner Hilton Seay, chairman of the Education Committee, said Wednesday that the commission would have to declare a vacancy and advertise for applications.
Interested parties would then submit their resumes to the Greene County Election Commission, at 218 N. Main St., by the advertised deadline, Seay said.
The commission would then review the resumes and vote among the candidates at a later meeting.
It is not yet clear if the commission may declare the vacancy during their Oct. 21 meeting, based on Jones' submitted letter of intent to resign Oct. 24.
If not, the commission would declare the vacancy during their Nov. 18 meeting, Seay said.
In other business, the committee voted to approve a budgetary resolution for consideration by the Greene County Budget & Finance Committee.
The resolution would budget nearly $480,000 in additional one-time state funds to the school system for the current fiscal year.
Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk explained that the bulk of the funding ($448,000) came from the office of Gov. Bill Haslam as an allotment to each district across the state, based on average daily attendance (ADA).
This distribution of funds is to aid the school systems in preparing for the upcoming implementation of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) testing.
PARCC is an online achievement test that will replace the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).
Because the test is online, it will require districts to improve Internet connectivity and device availability.
The vast majority of the $480,000 allotment from the state will go toward completing the "backbone" of Greene County's connectivity system, wireless Internet, Kirk said.
Information Technology Director Jason Patrick explained that the school system received federal E-Rate grant monies last year to pay for 90 percent of wireless Internet installation at smaller elementary schools.
E-Rate is the commonly-used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The program provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in obtaining affordable telecommunications and Internet access.
Locally, the grant money allowed the school system to install wireless Internet worth $234,000 for $23,000, Kirk said.
Installing wireless at the remainder of the county schools will cost the system $393,000.
Six other schools meet the qualifications for E-Rate funding and, if the money is available through E-Rate this year, the system would receive a $203,000 reimbursement, Patrick said.
Whatever funds the system has remaining from the state's allocation will go toward the purchase of devices (computers, tablets, laptops) that will prepare the system for the testing.
Patrick explained that the simultaneous nature of the online testing will require the system to purchase or update 1,009 devices.
He said that the system will need 66 computer labs or mobile laptop carts. So far, there are 27 such labs.
Patrick projected the remaining cost at $796,000.
"This would be a severe misuse of funds if just for testing," Patrick told the committee. "Plus, the students wouldn't be prepared if that's the first time they touch the device [when they take the test].
"The rest of the year, those devices need to be in the classroom. That may empower your teachers to do an even more effective job. It's not an opportunity lost."
Kirk reaffirmed this point, noting that many professionals spend the bulk of their time at work on an electronic device.
"If we don't prepare for this, we'll be short-changing the students," she said.
The director also noted a shift that she said she expects to see in education over the next five years from traditional printed textbooks to use of vetted, but free, open-source materials.
The remaining $30,000 of the additional funds the system has received from the state is from the Energy Efficient School Initiative.
The system's energy specialist, Steve Tipton, explained that he applied for and received this grant to begin installing thermostats with a remote access.
This way, temperature in the buildings can be controlled online from any location at any time, without someone having to travel to the building on a snow day or vacation day.
He anticipated that, under the right conditions, this capability could save the system thousands of dollars in expense on a given day.
The budget resolution budgeting the additional monies received unanimous approval from the committee.
The next Education Committee meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m., Jan. 6 at the Central Office.