Architect Ken Cress addresses the B of E about the new cross-country track and access road at Dade Middle School. The road is ready for car traffic--now the problem is keeping car traffic on the road from interfering with foot traffic on the track, which shares the roadway part of the way.
The Dade County Board of Education sat briefly for its official August meeting this Monday, Aug. 20, after a longer informal workshop last Thursday, Aug. 16. The Planet as usual chronicled the proceedings of the Aug. 16 session faithfully but was prevented from similarly immortalizing those of Aug. 20 by an automotive cataclysm
of Cecil-B.-DeMille-epic proportions, which did for Trenton what Godzilla did for Tokyo, and was duly reported in these pages.
(Click photo at right for story.)
The Planet hereby showers Central Office employee Cynthia Daniels with humble gratitude for filling in with her notes of the Aug. 20 session The Planet's car-carrier-plus-wrecker-sized blanks. Thanks, Ms. D!
Now. Let us begin with the Aug. 16 workshop:
Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of schools, showed the board a presentation by the school system's new social worker about what she does all day. The board added the social worker position just this school year. "We're calling her more a parent involvement collaborator than a social worker," said Dr. Harris. "We think it sounds more friendly."
The social worker, er, PIC, reported in her presentation that she was paying home visits to parents, making welcome packets for kindergartners, organizing food and clothing pantries for students who need them, and planning a "parent university."
On the subject of parental involvement, Dr. H said she's hoping the new bigger calendar on the school system website should bring more parents to see school plays and attend school band concerts. To see the big calendar, said the super, "Go to our beautiful new, fresh website." That's dadecountyschools.org, folks, or click the logo here:.
The super also bragged that the board's new reward system for perfect attendance had reduced staff absences by 541 days over two years, and fished for compliments and/or input on the school system's new logo.
"Out with the old, in with the new," proclaimed Dr. H, adding that brand-new science textbooks approved at a prior meeting were now in Dade classrooms.
The board approved $25,579 in SPLOST (special purchase local option sales tax) funds to go with a $77,000 grant for dry-erase classroom tables, Dr. Harris explained that teachers increasingly used tables instead of individual desks to engage students more fully, and that the process was further enhanced by the students' ability to write with markers directly onto these special tables, which were then erased with a sock. "It's new," she said. "It's very cool."
Patti Johnson, new head of academics for the system, reported to the board on how student achievement is now tracked through the grades with test scores at certain points. She talked about where improvements are needed but bragged a little about recent strides in math scores. "We pretty much rule there," she said.
Dr. James Cantrell reported on summer physical improvements at the schools: Renovation work at Davis Elementary was complete but rails were still being painted at Dade Elementary. He asked for permission to solicit quotes to stripe the parking lot at Davis and for new LED lighting in the Davis gym.
He reported progress on his project of separating big kids from little ones on school buses. Age segregation on bus rides has been deemed desirable but not always feasible given some of Dade's more remote mountain neighborhoods. Cantrell reported six buses are now used just for elementary school students and six for high- and middle-schoolers, while the others carry all ages. The time for transporting kids was about the same now as last year, he said, though: "We're using more fuel, of course."
Dr. Cantrell said solar panels for the high school's solar power initiative were to be installed this week.
But perhaps the most interesting bit of Dr. C's report was about the long-heralded cross-country course and access road at Dade Middle School. "Everything's finished," said Cantrell. Now, he said: "We've got to work together and figure out the logistics."
The new road is paved and ready to go, said Cantrell; the difficulty is now which way drivers should go on it--signage is needed to make it clear it's a one-way route--and when they are allowed to be on it at all.
With the cross-country track, as architect Ken Cress had earlier showed the board, sharing the roadway for part of its length: "We don't want to have any kind of car traffic on it when they're practicing," said Cantrell
Currently the road, which is 4/10s of a mile long and loops behind the middle school, running parallel to I-59 briefly to rejoin the school parking lot at the Ag Building, is car-accessible by anyone, though Dr. Cantrell explained later a gate is already available for use at the Ag Building end. At the meeting he discussed adding a gate at the other end to restrict access.
"We've got to start thinking bigger picture here," said board member Gen. Bob Woods (ret.).
And there's still the matter of the private landowner for whom the road is the longtime right of way to his property, reminded board member Jennifer Hartline. That landowner, said Cantrell, could have a card access to the gate or gates. He did not say if or how the private landowner was to be dissuaded from accessing the road during track meets or practices.
Another access matter is whether the general public is to be allowed to use the new cross-country track. "Increasing the fitness of Dade County is a good thing," said the general.
Dr. Harris agreed that the board should talk about county access later.
The school board originally awarded a contract for $330,000 for the access road, later approving a $25,911.83 change order. The cross-country track itself was expected to cost about $71,000, though no completed figures have been provided for its completion at recent B of E meetings..
Now, moving on to the Aug. 20 meeting: During the citizens' participation part of the meeting, Gary Moore and Larry Hester of American Legion Post 106 stood up to present the board with a gift of school supplies for Dade students that the post was donating.
The board approved an agreement with Leslie Vaccaro for contract school psychologist services for special programs. Also on the consent agenda were a list of school fundraisers and a school trip to Washington, D.C, for middle schoolers later this year. Finally, older technical equipment was declared surplus for auction or disposal.
Director of Federal Programs Debra Brackett had at the Aug. 16 workshop addressed the board on the need to develop a formal parental involvement policy, a requirement to continue receiving federal Title I, Part A funds. At the Aug. 20 meeting, it was decided to let her proposed policy "lie on the table" for consideration and comment until the September meeting.
Dr. Harris (right) announced that the four student "houses" Dade Middle School is organized in have been renamed Darters, Wildcats, Yellowjackets and Panthers, each representing a different phase of Dade school history.
During the Aug. 16 personnel session, the board accepted the resignations of DES paraprofessional Shawna York effective Aug. 31, custodian Rita Burgess of DCHS effective Aug. 1, bus driver Jackie Guffey effective Aug. 17, and lay coach Aaron Case of DMS effective Aug. 10. Bus Driver Angela Payne’s position was changed from bus driver to bus monitor.
Philip Bell was recommended as boys’ soccer coach at DMS and Kirk Prince as assistant football coach at DMS.
Andrea Jill Brown and April Logan were recommended for full-time cafeteria substitutes at all schools, and teacher Lori Case was granted leave effective Sept. 11.
After an executive session at the Aug. 20 meeting, Starla Gross was promoted from paraprofessional to teacher at DES. Angel Weathers' transfer to special education from second grade at Davis Elementary was also approved.
The next formal meeting of the Dade County Board of Education is at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept 17, at the B of E's offices off Highway 136 East in front of the high school. It is generally preceded, as it was this month, by a workshop session the Thursday before.