2015-03-19 / Front Page

Board expresses its intent to operate as an IE2 system

The Lincoln County Board of Education voted to express its intent to the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) to operate as an IE2 (Investing in Educational Excellence) system.

The action was taken at the regular meeting of the board held Tuesday, March 10.

School systems in Georgia are required to choose one of three options by June 30, 2015.

The options are:

(1) IE2 system: A local district that has a performance contract with the Georgia Board of Education (GaBOE) granting it allowable waivers from requested Title 20 provisions, GaBOE rules, and GaDOE guidelines.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) sets targets, monitors performance, and recommends consequences for schools not meeting their targets at the end of the contract.

(2) Charter system: Like IE2 systems, these districts have a performance contract with the GaBOE as well as the right to apply for waivers.

This option features a distributed leadership process, including local governance councils for each school.

(3) Status quo system: A local district that has elected not to request increased flexibility in exchange for increased accountability and defined consequences, and instead, has opted to remain under all current laws, rules, regulations, policies and procedures.

Prior to the vote, Nancy Pund, a local educator, said she has been studying the flexibility plan and favors the charter model.

She pointed out three drawbacks to the IE2 plan, which are listed below:

(1) Under this plan, the school system will be responsible to two state agencies (GaBOE and GOSA) instead of one.

(2) According to Pund, “The system must apply for at least one of the following waivers: class size, expenditure control, teacher certification, or salary schedule, which in my mind, hurts the students and devalues the profession.”

(3) “IE2 systems are not required to include all stakeholders in school governance; charter systems do,” said the educator. “School-level autonomy is a plus.”

In the charter model, systems must provide schools with substantial autonomy and maximize school-level governance by all stakeholders.

Pund further noted that in a charter system, there is the possibility of additional funding per pupil from the state.

Commenting on the extra, Dr. Brian Campbell, superintendent of schools, said, “At first, the state said charter systems would receive a bonus of $80 to $90 per student as determined by the current FTE (Full- Time Equivalency) funding system. The verbiage has since changed to include ‘if appropriated.’

“If all of the systems in the state are chartered, there won’t be enough money for the $80-90 bonus per FTE. Still, I don’t have a crystal ball – it may be there.”

In his remarks, Michael Fogarty, board member, said, “The charter option scares me because we would have another tier of management running the schools. Serving on one of these governance councils would be far more involved than being a board member.”

It was further noted by board members that the response of citizens to serving on the board or school advisory councils has not been overwhelming.

In other items of information, Dr. Campbell said, “The majority of school systems in the CSRA are going with the IE2 option. The others are choosing charter because of the money.”

He likewise made it clear that the resolution to pursue becoming an IE2 system does not mean the board cannot change its mind at a later date.

In other items of business, the board heard a presentation given by Dr. Roger Williams, representing the National Alumni Association of the Lincolnton Colored High School, the Lincoln County Training School, and Westside High School.

“There are very few lives in Lincoln County that have not been touched by Mr. Welcome Emerson Mason, either directly or indirectly,” stated Williams.

“Mr. Mason has made his mark in education as a teacher, principal, and curriculum director in the Lincoln County School System. In addition to serving on many boards at the county, regional, and state levels, he has also provided leadership for national organizations.

“Therefore, not only have those of us, who claim Lincoln County as home, benefited from his service, so have those who live elsewhere. In the true spirit of a servant-leader, Mr. Mason has always assisted whenever and wherever there was a need.”

Dr. Williams then asked the board to designate the old high school campus as the “Welcome E. Mason Campus of Excellence.”

The board agreed that Mason deserves honor and recognition, but some members wondered whether naming the campus after him was a fitting tribute, since the old middle school is about to be torn down.

According to board member Gail Remsen, “The middle school is being torn down, and the high school will remain in terrible condition unless Family Connection gets a grant to renovate it – it seems like that place over there is going away.

“It would be more lasting tribute if we could name a different campus or a gym after Mr. Mason,” she continued.

Dr. Williams said, “We are aware that the school will be torn down, but a lot will remain. It will still be viable because Larry Campbell Stadium, Buddy Bufford Field, and the Thomas Bunch Fieldhouse are there.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, the board voted to name the former middle/high school campus the Welcome E. Mason Campus of Excellence.

The alumni association will develop a proposal for designating the campus in honor of Mason and submit it to the board for approval.

In further business, the board recognized the system-wide winners of the Young Georgia Authors Writing Competition.

They are Bryar Rhoden, kindergarten; Catherine Seals, first grade; Mason Ball, second grade; Ivey O’Neal, third grade; Aubrey Gruber, fourth grade; Madison Bufford, fifth grade; Julianne Mattison, sixth grade; Ethan Clegg, seventh grade; Metz LeRoy, eighth grade; William LeRoy, ninth grade; Abygail Davis, tenth grade; Kari Powell, eleventh grade; and Lincoln LeRoy, twelfth grade.

According to Britt McKinney, federal programs director for the system, three students were selected to represent each grade level, based on their writings throughout the year. The writings were then submitted to judges from outside of the county, who chose the grade-level winners.

Each student received a certificate of achievement, presented by Superintendent Campbell, as well as a gift certificate from their respective schools.

Their entries will now be submitted to the CSRA RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency) to see how they compare with other authors across the region.

“We have always had good writers; I hope we have some state winners,” said McKinney.

Also during the meeting, the board: l Recognized the winners of the system-level competition in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The winners are: Chance Sutton, first place; Josiah Jones, second place; and Martin Handsom, third place.

Each student received a certificate of achievement as well as a gift certificate from the system’s Cornerstone Program, which is funded by members of the public.

Sutton represented Lincoln County at the CSRA district spelling bee. l Heard Dr. Campbell note that March 16-20 is “School Board Appreciation Week.”

In observance of the week, the board watched a video in which local students and the public at large shared their thoughts on the role of the board, how much the members make, and so forth. They likewise expressed their gratitude to these public servants.

In appreciation of the board’s hard work, the LCHS CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) Department gave each member a “Stress Kit,” an engraved wooden pen, and a bolt made using the new 3-D printer at LCHS.

Speaking to the board, Superintendent Campbell said, “Thank you for the job you do. Your unrelenting focus on our students is to be commended. You definitely don’t do this for the pay – you are volunteers.” l Heard an update on the FY 2015 budget given by Dr. Campbell, who said that $244,295 in Federal Impact Aid, received recently by the system, along with a mid-term adjustment of $56,075, has resulted in a $301,370 revenue increase.

“These funds were not budgeted for FY 2015, and I’m recommending that we start looking at the facility needs at LCES,” he said.

A list of the school’s needs and the cost estimates is as follows: install a security system, $25,000; replace the intercom and phone systems, $45,000; install an online HVAC system, $20,000; replace all exterior doors, $37,000; and purchase Softdocs software, $25,000. This software will allow the school to go paperless.

The total cost for these improvements is $141,800.

The superintendent indicated that he will obtain more specific quotes for the different projects and present them to the board at its next meeting.

He added that he would like to complete as many of these projects as possible before the end of the current fiscal year. l Heard an update on the projected budget for FY 2016 given by Dr. Campbell, who pointed out that the system’s QBE (Quality Basic Education) allocation has been received, and it amounts to $230,000 more than projected due to a reduction in the austerity adjustment. Because of the decrease in the austerity adjustment, the budget deficit will be reduced from $711,227 to $457,878, taking the projected fund balance to $1.1 million, which is within the recommended range.

In closing, Campbell said, “We’re heading in the right direction. Things are looking better than we initially thought.” l Heard a report on the system audit given by Jason LeRoy, board chairman.

LeRoy indicated that the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts gave a glowing report for financial management to Kaye Bufford, system finance director, and her staff, consisting of Penny Arnett, payroll manager; Sabrina Freeman, accounts payable manager; and Nancy Hardeman, Michee Ferguson, and Angie Spratlin, school bookkeepers.

The audit presented no findings.

“This is the second year in a row that we have qualified for an ‘Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting’,” said the board chairman. l Heard Superintendent Campbell announce that LCHS has been recognized as an AP (Advanced Placement) Challenge School. These are schools with enrollments of 900 or fewer students that tested in at least one AP course in each of the four traditional core areas: English, mathematics, science, and social studies.

AP classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also oversees the SAT. These classes offer college-level learning options to students in high school. In fact, students who receive a 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit. AP courses are weighted for HOPE eligibility.

Currently, LCHS offers AP classes in English/Language and Composition, English/Literature and Composition, calculus, biology, world history, United States History, and psychology.

There are also AP courses offered online through Georgia Virtual High School. l Adopted a resolution to approve the Lincoln County Five-Year Facility Plan.

According to Dr. Campbell, since the middle school/high school was built just five years ago, the only state entitlement funds the building is eligible for in the new facility plan are those designated for the construction of a car-rider canopy in the back and on the side of the school.

The majority of the facility needs identified in the plan focus on the elementary school.

The system’s architect has estimated that it will cost approximately $733,259 to meet the needs specified in the new plan. Of this amount, the plan identifies about $508,200 in needs that are eligible for entitlement funds. l Voted to hire Alternative Construction and Environmental Solutions, Inc. to demolish the old middle school building.

The company will create an RFP (Request for Proposal), bid out the project, supervise the demolition, and charge the system nine-percent of the total project cost (bid), with a $3,500 minimum.

Superintendent Campbell said that the asbestos in the building is adding to the complexity of the project.

There is $250,000 set aside in the budget for this purpose. l Heard Dr. Campbell give an update on House Bill 243, which if passed, will direct FTE funds to parents rather than schools. This means school systems would no longer receive direct funding from the state.

“These ‘vouchers’ can be used for home, private, or public school; textbooks; private tutoring; and any other expenses related to education,” said the superintendent.

He added that educators are alarmed by how fast the bill is moving through the legislature. l Reviewed the financial reports for Construction Projects; the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and Bond Tax Summary through February 28, 2015; the General Fund for the period from July 1, 2014, through February 28, 2015; quarterly reports for LCES; the high school athletic summary; and the high school principal’s account.

In her comments, Kaye Bufford, system finance director, indicated that with 66.66 percent of the fiscal year complete, expenditures are at 62.29 percent, and revenues, 76 percent.

“We are holding things well within budget – it’s looking good for the general fund,” she said.

Concerning SPLOST, “We received a little over $60,000 last month,” noted Bufford. “Except for July, we have collected more SPLOST revenues each month this year compared to FY 2014. It’s looking good; I’m not sure why.”

SPLOST collections have not been as high as they were last month since 2012.

Moreover, the system has received 76.4 percent of the SPLOST monies budgeted for FY 2015.

In other comments, Director Bufford said, “We have a balance of $326,900 in the SPLOST Fund and $911,676 in bond ad valorem tax for a total of $1,238,576. These funds will be used for our $1,000,399 bond payment due April 1 of this year.

“Now, we will have to start collecting for the October payment.” l Agreed to hold a planning session at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, at the board office. l Heard the second reading of revisions to the Employee Leaves Policy. The policy was approved as read. l Heard Dr. Campbell report that the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners is set to adopt a tax levy resolution for the refunding of school bonds at its regular meeting on Thursday, March 12.

In addition, a bond validation hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, in superior court. l Discussed the school climate report from the GaDOE.

LCES, LCMS, and LCHS each received a star rating of 4, with 5 being the highest. l Voted to enter into executive session to deliberate upon the employment of personnel and real estate. Upon returning to regular session, the board voted to accept the resignation of Brad Bohler, a teacher at LCHS, effective at the end of the school year.

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