BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Board of Education heard a proposal on Tuesday for new committees to address pressing issues for the county school system.
The Long-Range Planning Committee would address requests which the board received during its annual meeting for more than $1 million in top-priority facilities improvements, $800,000-plus in technology needs, and $186,000 in methods to increase energy efficiency.
The proposals, presented by Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk and other Central Office staff, would come under the review of committee members, which she said could include county commissioners.
All requests were presented with their priority indicated and the realization that they would be answered over time -- perhaps even over years -- and not all at once in the coming year.
The Central Office staff presented these needs as part of the board's 2013-2014 Stewardship goal.
The board held their annual retreat on Tuesday to review their goals.
Various Central Office staff members reported that the school system made considerable progress in the areas of facility, technology and energy improvements in the 2012-2013 school year.
Energy Specialist Steve Tipton reported that the system has saved $536,000 from changes in energy-related practices over a little more than a year.
Technology Coordinator Jason Patrick reported on progress in installing wireless capability at many of the system's schools at a heavily discounted rate.
Kirk also reported that the system accomplished all of the capital improvement projects on its $700,000 list from last school year except the South Greene septic system, which will be addressed over the winter break.
Most of the capital improvements for 2013-2014 are the result of aging facilities, including old cast-iron plumbing and 50-plus-year-old buildings, according to Maintenance Director David Myers.
The list of needed capital improvements presented included three remaining school entrances that are not "safety entrances," in which visitors enter the school through double doors and directly into the office, rather than entering straight into the open school.
Many of the 2012-2013 improvements were safety improvements that prompted changes in how parents access the buildings.
This, board members Kathy Austin and Deborah Johnson said, has caused some parents to have concerns about their level of involvement in their children's schooling.
The safety improvements were prompted by the increased focus on safety following the school shooting in Connecticut, and similar incidents elsewhere in the country.
Pre-Kindergarten and Federal Supervisor Kathryn Crumm reported on a variety of activities that occur in the schools to welcome parents and involve them in the schools' activities.
"I've heard some of the same things -- 'I'm not welcome; I'm not welcome,'" Crumm said, although she added that this has not been an issue as much this school year as it was last year, when changes were first made.
Crumm proposed that this may really be an issue of communication and how things are being said, rather than that parents are not being welcomed. Several board members agreed.
Austin proposed that system-wide consistency in safety policies could also aid the situation.
Crumm added that an upcoming school system survey, designed to discover issues such as bullying through anonymous answers, would also include community involvement and the opportunity to address parental concerns.
Next, a Zoning Committee would address changes in enrollment and planning for school zones.
Kirk provided the board with enrollment reports for every school, broken down by grade and class size, as well as out-of-zone reports for every school.
Schools with the highest percentages of out-of-zone students are those with after-school programs that are located along major routes, Kirk said. These include:
* DeBusk Elementary School, with 42 percent of students out of zone;
* Doak Elementary School, with 20 percent out of zone; and,
* Nolachuckey Elementary School, with 17 percent out of zone.
Kirk cautioned that this is a very complicated issue with slow change but long-term impact. She proposed that the board consider professional consultation for population projections.
TEACHER PAY SCALES
Anther committee proposal included an administrative committee, partnered with a representative from the board, that would formulate a plan for addressing the state's new requirements on teacher pay scales.
As a result of the requirements, these scales must now be based on more than just the teacher's experience and education.
The formation of this committee would fall under the board's goal for Staff Success.
While delayed reports from the state on average teacher salaries and benefits prevented the board from addressing many aspects of the board's goals related to Staff Success, Kirk did report on teacher evaluations.
There are 88 percent of the system's teachers that scored 3 or better (a rating of "Effective") on their evaluation, with 5 serving as the highest score, Kirk said. The board goal for 2013-2014 will be to reach 90 percent scoring 3 or better.
She also noted that recent surveys of certified staff indicated that teachers feel there has been less communication this year.
Kirk announced her intention to hold regular advisory council meetings with certified staff, classified staff and parents, respectively, throughout the coming year.
The board concluded the meeting with discussion items left untouched. For that reason, the board decided to schedule a follow-up meeting in mid-November.