Will DMS Cross-Country Course Be Built After All? Stay Tuned.

(Photo: A pink-blooming tree provides a breath of spring outside

the B of E office on Monday. Inside, the air was a mite mustier, if not precisely fustier.)

Business seemed routine at Monday night's regular monthly meeting of the Dade County Board of Education--at first.

For months, the board and Superintendent Jan Harris have gathered a week before the official meeting for informal workshops at which they have been knocking out a great deal of the business on their plate, including sweeping personnel changes as well as extensive alterations to the school buildings (see previous Planet articles). Then, at the regular meeting, they formalize the changes they've already decided on and go home in time for supper.

The April 17 session began that way, with Dr. Harris recommending and the board approving bids for previously discussed work. The board gave the nod to $43,470 in SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds for new bleachers at Dade Elementary School;$28,900 for acoustic insulation, also for DES; $24,057 for track equipment for the high school; and $2300 for certified athletic training services from Benchmark, which provided the service for the same price this year.

But when Dr. Harris recommended the board accept a $335,000 bid from Levin Construction for building a new cross-country course at the middle school--a project that has been discussed for years now, and one that had seemed in recent months to be moving nearer to fruition--the board declined the bid, letting a motion to accept it die for lack of a second.

What happens to the track project now? The Planet asked Assistant Superintendent Billy Hooker. "That's up to them to decide," said Hooker, referring to the board members. "They can rebid it or they can not do anything with it."

If they choose option B, "not do anything," asked The Planet, does that mean the track doesn't get built?

"Right," said Hooker.

So as it stands, the future of the middle school track is an open question. Meanwhile, the school board also balked at Dr. Harris's recommendation for hiring a special-education teacher specializing in hearing-impaired students by paying a release fee to the contractor she currently works for. "It's just so hard to find excellent special education teachers," said Dr. Harris. "We have students that really need that service."

The board asked that before the teacher is hired, a rider be attached to her contract specifying she must stay at Dade two years so the system could recoup the contract release fee Dr. Harris proposed that the board pay. It was only after the board attorney, contacted by phone, pronounced such a clause a no-no, and that Special Program Director Debra Brackett went back over the math, explaining that hiring the teacher would save money the first year, that the board accepted Dr. Harris's recommendation and gave its blessing to the hire.

In other business, the board accepted a request from Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park to borrow school system buses and their drivers for next month's Mountain Art and Craft Celebration at the park. Under the agreement, four to six buses will be used to shuttle attendees back and forth to the May 13-14 arts and crafts fair from remote parking areas, said Dr. Harris. The Friends group will reimburse the school system for the cost of using the buses, including the drivers' wages. "This sounds like a wonderful community event," said Dr. Harris.

The board also approved a bid to provide a $10,000 life insurance policy to all school employees.

Dr. Harris reminded all of a school art show at 6 p.m. on April 24, a "Miss Springtime" pageant at the middle school at 2 p.m. on April 29, and the upcoming special Olympics later in the month. Readers may call the board of education for more information on any of those at (706) 657- 4361.

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