The Dade County Board of Education held a short workshop last Thursday and its regular November meeting on Monday night. After the usual executive, or closed-door, session on Monday, the board reconvened to announce personnel changes most notable of which is the retirement of Associate Superintendent Billy Hooker (below), the courtly central office administrator who oversees physical changes to the school such as last summer’s renovation of Dade High and the proposed construction of a cross-country track at Dade Middle School.
The high school renovation ran wildly over budget and off schedule due to an unexpected problem with flooring, and the cross-country track was put on hold altogether last year after it emerged that it would cost more than the board was willing to part with. That project was revisited at Thursday’s work session. More on that in a minute, but first, those personnel changes:
Hooker said after the meeting his retirement was not a spur-of-the-moment decision but that he had long planned to step down after he turned 62, a consummation that arrived last summer. He and his wife have three grandchildren they want to see more of, said Hooker. “I want to retire while I can still travel,” he said.
Hooker had worked at Central Office only since 2011. He, like Superintendent Jan Harris--and like Dr. Sandra Spivey, the new principal at Dade Middle School, for that matter--had retired from an Alabama school system before beginning life anew this side of the border. He began as a teacher in 1976, said Hooker.
Besides approving Hooker’s retirement, which is effective April 1, the board accepted resignations from two Dade County High teachers, special education teacher Brandon Blakeman and Meredith Tudor, who teaches math. Both will be leaving as of Dec. 20. Dade Middle School teacher Sharee Miller was granted leave as of Nov. 13.
The board hired Cynthia Baker Teresa Smith, John Hess and Sarah Reed-Condra as substitute teachers. Courtney Stevens and Megan Dodd were hired as part-time cafeteria workers.
Now, moving on to the cross-country course: At the work session on Thursday, Nov. 9, architect Ken Cress, who had earlier shown the board plans for a state-of-the-art cross-country course at Dade Middle School, trotted his blueprints out again for round 2. He recommended, and the board approved at its Nov. 13 meeting, issuing a new request for proposals (RFP) for building the course itself.
(Photo): Ken Cress exhibits a drawing of the proposed cross-country course, while soon-to-retire administrator Billy Hooker looks on at the Nov. 9 workshop.)
The next big step after this, Cress told the board, will be building an access road for the track, with soil testing for the roadbed to start immediately. Cress said the process can all move fairly quickly after the testing. “By the time you get the bids for the track, you’ll know what you’re going to need out here,” he said.
There was no speculation at the work session as to how much either the road or the track project would cost, but from the discussion the expectation would appear to be: a lot. “When they dig these test pits, they’re looking for rock,” said Cress. In Dade County, the board agreed, they’re likely to find it.
But from the tenor of the discussion, the board at least at this juncture seems inclined to grit its teeth and pay the cost this time. The idea, pointed out board member Jennifer Hartline, is to bring more track activity to Dade; member Johnny Warren said regardless of how much rock is found, the road was needed for safety purposes, as an alternate way out of the interstate-backed middle school. And board chairperson Carolyn Bradford pointed out the new road would help alleviate traffic.
Cress explained that, the way the cross-country track is planned, runners will run along the access road for part of their course. He also mentioned that because of the ditches near the school a total of three culverts will be needed. And he said the shape and route of the course can be altered according to what the rock testing reveals without altering its qualifications as a cross-country facility. School system coaches have previously addressed the board on the importance of having a meet-class cross-country facility and its potential draw for athletics from surrounding schools systems.
The Planet will continue to report on this matter as developments emerge.
Also discussed on Thursday and approved on Monday was a new permanent outdoor cooking structure for Dade County High, which students will help construct as a class project. This will be a grilling station to be used by Future Farmers of America as well as other school clubs.
Additionally, the board approved adding a pre-kindergarten classroom at Dade Elementary School. Dr. Harris said DES had 10 prospective students on the pre-K waiting list now.
Dr. Harris discussed the exhaustive agenda for the state AdvancEd visit this week—this is the state accreditation process, a rigorous on-site review of the school system with the aim of continuous improvement in all public schools.
Dr. Harris also reminded the board that its December meeting will at Dade High, at 6 p.m. on Dec. 18.
The super also took the Nov. 13 meeting as an opportunity to honor publicly the recently-named teachers of the year—see previous article and photo below—as well as nutritional director Dr. Cleta Long, who had been named regional nutritional director of the year.
(Contributed photo From left, Dr. Jan Harris, Superintendent; Dr. Sandra Spivey, Dade Middle School principal; Wil Martin, DMS Teacher of the Year and Secondary Teacher of the Year; Tracy Blevins, Dade Elementary School principal; Amber Kent, DES Teacher of the Year and Dade County Teacher of the Year; Marsha Townson, Davis Elementary Teacher of the Year; Josh Ingle, Davis P\principal; James Fahrney, Dade County High School principal; Philip Bell, Dade County High School Teacher of the Year.