Dade Board of Education Adopts Budget, Keeps Millage Rate, "Accepts Growth." Oh. And Gets

Special Programs Director Debra Brackett (foreground, left) is honored by Dr. Jan Harris (foreground, right) for her work in special education at Dade schools. In the background are Board of Ed members, from left, Johnny Warren, Cindy Shaw, Carolyn Bradford (chair), Jennifer Hartline and Gen. Bob Woods (ret.).

The Dade County Board of Education on Monday adopted its proposed fiscal year 2018 budget of $18,269,484, decided to keep its current millage rate of 15.509 going into the new year, and announced the three public hearings required for the slight increase increase in tax revenues this would generate.

Those hearings are at noon and 6 p.m. on Aug. 3 and 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 10, all at the B of E’s office in front of Dade High on Highway 136 East. The Aug. 10 hearing will be followed by a special called board meeting at 6 p.m. for the purpose of adopting the proposed millage rate.

The school board proposes to “accept the growth” in the tax digest rather than roll the millage rate back further, even though keeping it constant results in the need for these hearings. The requirement for public approval stems from the expectation that the millage rate multiplied against the increased real estate values will raise $110,529 more in actual tax revenues over last year.

What will the school system do with the “extra money?” As anyone who has ever tried to prepare a budget will know, that’s a contradiction in terms. Russell Ramey, the certified public accountant who went over the 2018 budget for the board, pointed out that it shows a $100,085 deficit of expenses over revenues as expected when it was drafted--“We have to prepare the budget before we have the digest”--so that the overage in tax collections will mostly go toward plugging that hole.

Ramey also pointed out the breakdown of the $18 million system budget included $11,767,597 from the state and $5,471,802 from Dade County. The balance comes from such sources as grants, he said.

The Dade Board of Education issued its own press release on the millage rate decision, which The Planet has published as a separate article. Read it by going to The Planet's homepage and selecting it from the news feed.

The board’s July 17 meeting was actually three consecutive events: the last public hearing on the FY2018 budget--the public was, as is usually the case, few and far between--at 5 p.m.; a special called meeting at 5:30 p.m. at which the board went into executive, or closed-door, session to discuss personnel, immediately upon convening; and the board’s regular July meeting at which the budget was adopted and the personnel changes approved among other routine business.

Here are the personnel announcements made by Dade Schools Superintendent Jan Harris after the board’s executive session:

Jennifer Clark was given leave from Dade County High School until Oct. 31. Hired (or promoted) were Jennifer Taylor as half-time special education teacher at Davis Elementary; Jo Reed Brumley as math teacher at DCHS; Caitlyn Powell as special education teacher at Dade Elementary School; Darlene Rogers as system lead curriculum specialist; Tinena Bice as system mentor liaison; and Jackie Guffey, Kaleigh Lusk and Stephen Fredock as bus drivers.

Brooklyn Poston was named as a lay coach.

During the regular meeting, Dr. Harris pinned an award on Director of Special Programs Debra Brackett recognizing her for her achievements in special education, including dramatic improvements in special education graduation rates. “You’re a woman of integrity and character and you love our kids,” said Dr. Harris. “That touches my heart.”

Ms. Brackett spoke proudly of a Dade special education grad who had a job, lived independently and was making college plans. “We’ve got some good outcomes with our students with disabilities,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Billy Hooker (right, in file sht) gave the board an update on the physical upgrades being made to system schools this summer, including the extensive renovation at DCHS which has been delayed by a problem with the flooring that added over $600,000 to the price tag and--just as bad from an administrator’s point of view--an unknown amount of time to the completion date. “Will it be finished by Aug. 1?” said Hooker. “The answer is no.”

Students report to class this year on Aug. 8.

Hooker described certain areas at the school as “in the midst of chaos” but said others were beautiful and the work was going well. “I think you’re going to be happy with the look,” he said.

Board member Jennifer Hartline asked if renovation workers would be be onsite when the students were in class. Hooker assured her that no, the work was scheduled for weekends and evenings only, when school was not in session.

Hooker also said the old bleachers had been removed from Dade Elementary and the new ones would be shipped Aug. 1 and installed by the 6th.

In other business, Dr. Harris asked and was granted $23,800 for a new car to be used by school employees on official business such as training sessions. She said that last year’s mileage rate reimbursement to employees using their own cars for such travel had come to over $40,000, and that the vehicle the system already owns stays in constant use. “This should help us save a little bit next year,” she said.

In yet other business, Dr. Harris made a long-awaited announcement: The traffic signal in front of DCHS on Highway 136 will burst forth into glorious green, red and amber light today. “The light will be flashing for eight days,” she said.

Red lights are always front-page news in rural Dade County, which has to fight long and hard to get so much as a four-way stop sign from a historically recalcitrant state transportation system; but the high school light has been particularly elusive. The Planet can attest that it has been discussed at virtually every city and county commission meeting for longer, anyway, than it takes to gestate a human child.

Board members inquired whether the traffic light will operate continuously or only when school is in session. Dr. Harris said she understood it will function only during school hours, and board chairperson Carolyn Bradford added it could be turned back on for after-hours functions such as football games.

Dr. Harris announced the high school would offer college courses this year in conjunction with Northwest Georgia Technical College, enabling students to earn college credit.

Citizen Derek Keith stood up during citizens' participation to remind Dr. H and the board that Dade has no baseball coach lined up for the coming season. “I’m here to ask Coach Cooper if he can do it another year,” he said.

Dr. Harris explained after the meeting that Brent Cooper had been coaching baseball for the system but now that he has been promoted to assistant principal at DCHS the system is looking at other choices. “He’d have to leave at 2:00, and what if he had a meeting?” she said. “We may have no other choice, but we have three internal candidates that we’re talking to and they’re all excellent.”

The school board’s next regular meeting is at 6 p.m. on Aug. 21, after school opens. Dr. Harris reminded students and parents that supply lists and open house dates for the 2017-18 school year are posted on the school system’s website, dadecountyschools. org.

Extry!Extry! Dade Planet Fashion Supplement (At No Additional Charge)

Remember the bit in the old movies where Plain Jane Educator removes her glasses (perhaps to wipe off steam after the exertion of fleeing a slime blob, monolith monster or giant gorilla) and Lovable But Dense Action Hero John suddenly realizes: "Why, Jane, you're (dot dot dot) beautiful?" After which they walk into the sunset?

Dr. Jan Harris, Dade's superintendent of schools, made just such a transformation at Monday's B of E meeting, losin' the specs and updatin' the Look to the point that at least one nearsighted audience member wondered: "So who's Blondie Glamourpants up there, and what's she doing sitting in Dr. H's place?"

Thus now or never seemed the best time for a Dade Planet Fashion Board review of Dr. H's sartorial footprint since she took the helm of Dade's school system last year. (The superintendent might have opted for Never but The Planet tends to pick Now! every time.)

Above, Dr. H addresses a Dade First meeting at the library last summer a la School Marm Basic, blue gingham dress coyly accented with a little white schmatta complete with Floppy Flower pin.

At right, photographer Tim Evearitt captured the Super opening a Chattanooga Lookouts game in June decked out in Le Look Sportif, basic black T carrying a subtle go education! theme for extra fashion oomph.

Finally, note the transformation from Dr. Harris's Capable Administrator motif (left, as featured in her official Dade Board of Education website photo) to the Channelin'-Paltrow blond updo, flirty polkadots, playful earbobs and--hmm, do we recognize that Floppy Flower?--of the July 17 B of E meeting.

Why, Dr. Harris, you're (dot dot dot) glamorous!

That's this week's fashion review from The Planet. Sorry, Dr. H, it's a slow news week!

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