Come Back To School, Dr. Harris Invites Homeschoolers

From left, Cynthia Daniels of Central Office, DES counselor Tinena Bice and and special ed teacher Dr. Martha Plumlee were honored for helping student Adam Smith finish school and get a job.

Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of Dade Schools, has this message for for homeschooling parents: Bring your kid back!

“Let me extend an invitation to you,” said the super. “You get a private-school education at a public-school cost. That’s free. F-R-E-E,” she spelled to clear up any ambiguity.

Dr. Harris was speaking at a Thursday workshop preceding the Dade Board of Education's regular October meeting on Monday. During the workshop, she gave the board a rosy report on the State of the Schools, going over enrollment at the individual schools—“The numbers go up and down”—AdvancEd, the new accreditation process—“We are working feverishly to complete … all that documentation”—and the new expanded school system annual report—“It was not possible to get all the good news into six pages.”

Dr. H listed numerous student and teacher awards, mentioned the system’s perfect audit, and bragged on the board, the teachers and system financial director Paula Stallings for policing the budget: "She's always got her watchful eye on every dollar," said Dr. H.

Also at the Thursday workshop, the board and superintendent honored three system employees—a teacher, a counselor and an administrator—who had helped a student at risk finish school and strike out in life on his own. DES counselor Tinena Bice and special education teacher Dr. Martha Plumlee, as well as Cynthia Daniels of Central Office, were presented praise and pots of chrysanthemums for their help in keeping Adam Smith in school.

Young Smith, the trio of honorees explained after the workshop, was a Dade High School graduate who had recently finished a welding course at Georgia Northwestern and gotten a job. That’s the happy ending, but there were some shaky times during the beginning and middle. A stroke at or near birth had impaired half Smith's body, and he and his mother had at first lacked confidence he could attend even elementary school.

That’s where Cynthia Daniels came in, said Ms. Bice. Her own son had also had a stroke and she was able to reassure Smith’s mother. “They just made an instant connection,” said Ms. Bice.

Later, Smith became discouraged again as a high school student but with Ms. Daniels and his elementary school special ed teacher and counselor all rooting for him, he had had little choice but to pull on through somehow. Now all three beamed with pride in his accomplishment as they posed with their mums.

"It’s a story we never get tired of telling,” they assured The Planet.

An executive, or closed-door, session to discuss personnel took up most of the B of E's regular October meeting on Monday. After the session, the board returned to accept the resignations of Carrie Brown and Yuteva Mashburn as bus driver and Dade Elementary School paraprofessional, respectively, and to hire Louis Blake Crisp and Alan Michael Lawson as substitute bus drivers/substitute teachers.

The following were also hired as substitute teachers: Whitney Rogers-Petty, Charles Carver, Natasha Frady, Alan Michael Lawson, Emily Nichols, Michael Hayes, Jamie Christopher, Stephanie Wall, Christina Emmett, Ashton Vaughan and Elizabeth Gadd.

Otherwise, the board accepted a bid for fuel for the schools from Jatt Oil for $2.34 per gallon for regular gas and $2.268 diesel. The board also accepted Operations Director Dr. James Cantrell’s recommendation to designate as surplus and list for auction two of the system’s school buses, two mowers and a tractor.

Also discussed at the Oct. 16 meeting, as well as at the informal workshop on the 12th, was approval of a schedule for training of board members. Dr. Harris (left) noted that board members had already accumulated enough training to far exceed state requirements. “I think our board gets an A-plus,” she said.

Another discussion item was amending board policy to redefine “immediate family” for personnel purposes to include grandparents and grandchildren. “This is one reason we don’t print policy manuals anymore,” said Dr. Harris, explaining the manual was now an online document to accommodate what had become nearly constant changes.

Board member Gen. Bob Woods agreed the change was necessary: “We’ve got so many grandparents raising children now it’s unbelievable,” he said.

The policy change was tabled for review for 30 days.

Speaking of print versus online, the general asked Dr. Harris about the school system’s textbook budget. “Are we going kind of away from textbooks?” he said.

“We’re kind of in a hybrid situation right now,” answered the superintendent. Students still use books, but many of them refer the reader to a website. Meanwhile, she said, kids still seemed to like having books in their hands to read. “I think we’ll always have the hard copy as well as the internet,” said Dr. Harris.

The next regularly scheduled Dade Board of Education meeting is at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13.

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