District One School Board amends final budget

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By David Meade
The Anderson School District One Board approved an amended budget, named a recommendation for the vacant board position and approved the architecture and engineering firm for construction of the new Palmetto Middle and Wren Middle schools.
They also discussed recommended changes in the District’s cell phone policies.
Board members Pat Cox and Brenda Ellison were presented a certificate and pin recognizing their achievement of School Board Association Level Two certification.
In the Instruction Report, Superintendent of Instruction Jane Harrison reported that test scores are in and are being evaluated.
“Hopefully we will see some improvement,” she said. The scores will be released soon.
Harrison also reported that a Rosetta Stone paper, focused on foreign language in the elementary schools, showed students involved were more creative and learn better.
The foreign language program is being added to all three middle schools and four elementary schools. The program is being added to first and fifth grades.
Foreign language will be taught in Cedar Grove Elementary, Concrete Primary, Hunt Meadows Elementary, Palmetto Elementary, Powdersville Elementary.
Harrison said sixth and seventh grades will have a survey course and beginning in eighth grade, students can take Spanish 1.
Harrison also reported that Profession Learning Communities (PLC), where teachers work together, result in higher test scores.
She said they are looking a PLCs for Response to Intervention to do better in Tier One schools.
For Professional Development, the District has two of the best in the state for input on math and science standards, according to Harrison.
Harrison also asked for board consent for a new honors foundation of engineering program which will be taught at the Career and Technology Center.
She announced that the opening of school for teachers will be held Aug. 13 at Wren High and will be followed by professional staff development.
The teacher of the year announcement program will be held on Fri Aug. 17 at the Career and Technology Center. Support staff will also be invited.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kelly Pew presented the Student Nutrition Report.
Dr. Pew said the summer feeding program was being held at four sites and that participation was down from last year when the program was held at six sites. The summer program is serving 310 meals per day and has served a total of 4020 meals, she said.
Improvements have been underway at Palmetto and Wren cafeterias including changing ceiling tiles, installing LED lights, painting, adding new serving lines, and stainless steel wall panels.
In other action, the board amended the budget which will be presented to the Anderson County School Board for final approval.
The amended $75,072,271 budget shows an increase of $424,884 due to changes in the final state budget. The additional revenue increase was offset by an additional $800,000 in expenses, according to Superintendent Robbie Binnicker.
Binnicker said the finance staff had to find an additional $400,000 which is coming from capital outlay for roofing and HVAC. “We have done a lot over the last two years and did feel pretty comfortable we could do that,” Binnicker said.
The budget reflects a 3.98 percent increase and is based on student enrollment of approximately 150 to 200 or more new students.
(Binnicker presented additional information about the budget changes to the board which will be covered in a followup article in The Journal.)
The amended budget will be presented to the Anderson County School Board for final approval.
The Board is also looking forward to a new building program that will include construction of new middle schools at the current sites of Wren and Palmetto Middle schools.
Based on the recommendation of the superintendent, the board approved Craig Gaulden Davis for Architecture and Engineering services for work on the two schools
The schools are the oldest in the district and will be upgraded with new construction while still using the original buildings for classes.
Binnicker said the firm has done work for the district over the last ten years including new and additions.
“They do quality work and are very creative, come in on budget and continue programing phases are going to be very complex” with the two new schools.
Binnicker said that the project at Wren Middle will require the front drive to be relocated which may cause a delay.
However by approving the engineering firm now, Craig Gaulden and Davis can begin working on plans so that the drive can be relocated next summer if the referendum is approved next year.
He said they have already been working on the plans for one year and will begin on schematics.
The board unanimously approved the recommendation.
Former Board member Dr. Doug Atkins is being recommended to fill the vacant seat on the board which was created when he resigned the position near the end of the school year in protest of handling of incident ivolving teacher Lisa Houston.
Binnicker reported that three people were interested in the position. One was not in Area Five, and another one withdrew, leaving Atkins as the final and recommended person for the position.
The recommendation will be presented to the Anderson County School Board for final approval.
The board accepted information and had considerable discussion on two board policies including JICJ- Cell Phones/ paging devices and other comunit cation devices and JCDAD bus conduct involving use of cell phones.
Dr. Kelly Pew said the revisions to the policies bring them up to date with everchanging technology involving telecommunication devices. The recommended changes bring the current policies into agreement.
Changes allow students to listen to music or use cell phones during lunch and after school day or during non instructional times if the principal allows.
It also states devices can be used in a classroom with permission of a teacher. That proposal resulted in some discussion about phones in the classroom and being consistent in the policy..
Board Member Mike Wilson expressed concerns about allowing students more “face time” with technology and allowing phones in the classroom at all.
Board member David Merritt said the School Board had addressed cell phone use in the schools several years back and that he felt the current policy addresses the situation in a way that works for parents, students and school personnel.
Dr. Pew explained that the policy currently does not allow devices to be used during school hours and that they must be turned off and out of sight.
The revised policy allows devices during the school day with permission of a teacher for educational purposes. It also allows devices after school day or during non instructional times, if the prinicipal allows.
The second policy change addresses phone use interrupting operations of a safe school bus.
Unless the board changes it, the policy allows use of a phone or device for music or games while students are on a bus.The change allows the bus driver to make the decision if a phone use is being disruptive.
Cell phones are only allowed in the high schools. Elementary and Middle Schools do not allow them.
After considerable discussion, Board Chair Nancy Upton asked Binnicker and staff to look into how neighboring school districts handle their cell phone policy.
The policy recommendations were accepted as information on first reading and will be voted on at the next board meeting in August.
The board approved the following personnel recommendations:
Rebecca Ratcliffe, Grade One , West Pelzer Elementary; David Savage, Math, Palmetto High.
Resignation, Megan Reeves, Grade One, West Pelzer Elementary.