Supt. Jones gives update on students academic arrangement School system proposes 2020 high school graduation in July with precautions

Shown L to R: GCHS Counselor Tameka Thompson, GCHS senior Jasmine Bevelle and Superintendent Corey Jones display 2020 seniors yard signs.

The Greene County Board of Education held its regular meeting Monday, May 18, 2020, observing the required COVID-19 physical arrangements with limited participants wearing masks and seated 6ft. apart. The board’s quorum consisted of C. Zippert, L. Branch and W. Morgan.
In a key announcement, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones stated that the school system is tentatively planning to hold Greene County High School graduation on Friday, July 24 utilizing the stadium and football field at Robert Brown Middle School. He stated that his executive committee is planning the arrangements where graduates will be spaced appropriately from each other and each student will be allowed only four guests who will also be distanced according to guidelines. Other specific logistics will be announced at a later date.
Superintendent Jones noted that GCHS graduates received their caps and gowns and personalized yard signs Monday afternoon in a drive-through at the high school prior to the board meeting, with numerous faculty, staff and board president available to present the attire and congratulatory gestures. (See photo display on page 8)
In a COVID-19 academic arrangement update, Jones reported on each school regarding teachers’ contacts with students and students’ compliance in submitting completed assignments.
Eutaw Primary reported 100% teacher contact with students and 80% packets returned by students. Robert Brown Middle School reported 93% teacher contact and 85% packets return. Greene County High reported 95% teacher contact and 95 % packets return. The Career Center reported 100% teachers contact and 80% packets return.Regarding additional technology for students’ virtual learning, Superintendent Jones announced that the school system was awarded a $30,000 grant from Alabama Power Foundation toward the $167,000 cost of 600 Chrome Books and hot spots for students, which are on order. He added that the school system is exploring various internet carriers to service our outlying areas, including AT& T and Verizon. “These technological improvements will allow us to extend learning time and provide optional arrangements for the teaching-learning process” he stated.
Jones indicated that because of the COVID-19 uncertainties, his executive staff is investigating a possible blended schedule for the next school term, where various grades could attend on-site classes in shifts and participate in classes virtually off-site.
The school system has ended its regular meals program having provided 66,540 meals to families with children 1-18 years of age, however, families can continue to receive meals for students through the USDA Meals-To-You Program. Each family must sign-up for the program through the following website: http://www.mealstoyou.org. Meals will be delivered to parents who sign up.
CSFO Lavonda Blair reported that the State Audit Exit Conference was held vitally last week with board members. There were no findings. A final on-site report will be scheduled at a later date. She also noted that the school system’s income is decreasing, as tax revenue decreases, however expenses are increasing.
According to Blair, the water bills at the various school sites have had considerable increases even though the facilities are closed. At GCHS there was a $2,000 plus increase in the water bill in a month’s period; At RBM there was a $700 plus increase water bill; and at Eutaw Primary there was a $300 plus increase. Superintendent Jones indicated he has attempted to reach Mayor Raymond Steele to investigate these increases and obtain an explanation. If the Mayor does not respond, Dr. Jones indicated he will approach the City Council.
The board has tentatively scheduled its required annual Superintendent and CSFO Evaluations for June 15 and June 8, respectively.
The board also discussed the AASB Whole Board Training for 2020, but no definite decision was determined since all board members were not present.
The superintendent noted that his office has taken appropriate actions to alleviate the Bat problem at RBMS.
The board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to hire Mr. James Gaines as Interim Transportation Supervisor for the school system.
In a traditional process, the board approved the superintendent’s recommendations to non-renew various non-tenured and contract personnel. Dr. Jones indicated that most will be called back.

Board members recognized for School Board Appreciation Month; public challenges criticism of superintendent and school system

Robert Brown Middle School students demonstrate walking and dancing robots they created.

In keeping with recognizing January as School Board Appreciation Month, each of the Greene County schools honored the local school board members with special accolades at the monthly meeting held Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Eutaw Primary students Ja’Siyah Spencer and London Gould, under the direction of 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Keisha Williams, rendered a poem. Principal Barbara Martin invited board members to a special luncheon.
Robert Brown Middle School Students Jami Williams, Omar Elnaham, Kailee Coleman, Jocelyn Pelt and Anthony McMillian, Jr., under the direction of 7th & 8th grade teacher, Ms. Janice Jeames, demonstrated the walking and dancing robots they created in science class.

The group presented board members with sweets and certificates of appreciation.
Representing Greene County High School, Mr. Alphonzo Morton, III, science/biology teacher and Mr. Siegfried Williams, Choir Director, rendered a poem and song and presented board members with bags of sweets and certificates of appreciation.
Superintendent Dr. James Carter, Sr., representing the Central office staff, presented board members certificates of appreciation and fruit baskets.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the Greene County Industrial Development Authority, also recognized the school board members with bags of healthy treats and copies of the spiritual guide, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Returning to its regular order of business, the board acted on the following personnel recommendations of the superintendent.
Approved resignations of Sondra Green, Health Science Instructor, Greene County Career Center, effective January 15, 2019; Lesley Carlisle, Maintenance Supervisor, effective January 31, 2018.
Approved catastrophic leave for Tyreice Mack, 5th grade Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School.
Approved employment of Derrick Williams, Bus Driver, Department of Transportation.
Approved salary adjustment for Accounts Payable Clerk, for duties outside regular duties.
Approved supplemental contracts for Shayla McCray, Charlayne Jordan-Riley, and Angelia Hood for duties performed outside regular contract.
Approved supplemental contract for Fredrick Square as School Safety Coordinator.
Approved supplemental contract for Alfonzo Noland, for duties outside regular duties.
The board also approved Dr. Carter’s recommendation that supplemental contracts for coaches remain as is with the caveat that coaches be given extra pay consideration upon completion of annual evaluation, number of students who earn scholarships, won and lost record, practice schedule, and morale of students and coaches within the program.
CSFO LaVonda Blair presented a financial snapshot for the period ending November 2018:
General Fund Balance – $659,662.79 (reconciles to the summary cash report); Check Register Accountability Report – $486,097.48; Payroll register – $898,072.90; Combined Fund Balance – $2,950,901; Local Revenue for the month included property taxes – $202,633.59 and bingo collections – $58,620. Statement ending balance in Merchants & Farmers Bank – $592,538.82 with ending book balance at $659,662.679. The School system’s reserved fund balance is $2,950,901.15
Morgan attempts to buy-out superintendent’s contract
When the board members returned from executive session, board member William Morgan offered a motion which in effect would buy-out Superintendent Carter’s contract and end his services in the system as of Feb. 1, 2019. In the December board meeting, the majority of the board voted to non-renew Dr. Carter’s contract when it ends in June, 2019. Morgan’s motion was deemed out of order, since discussion of the superintendent’s contract was not on the agenda and to add it would required unanimous consent of all board members. Morgan proceeded to expound on the reasons for his motion. He stated that the school system is in great disarray; teachers do not get support they need; principals don’t do their jobs; students don’t get resources needed and all this, according to Morgan, is failure of the superintendent to do his job. Morgan made several disparaging statements against the superintendent, implying the system needed someone new immediately before everything just fell apart. Mr. Leo Branch, board president, had to resort to gaveling Morgan back to order, with the latter insisting he had the floor.
Superintendent Carter followed with his own remarks, refuting Morgans statements of how bad the school system is. Carter pointed to the new and continuing initiatives and the progressive work going on in the system.
Board member Carol Zippert indicated that she wanted clarity that Morgan did not represent her views on the school system. She said that are lots of good things going on in our schools and problems and issues cannot be corrected overnight. It takes a process for progress to continue, with everyone playing a part. She stated that the system is continuing to improve.
During public comments, several members of the audience, including Ms. Hattie Edwards, former Mayor or Eutaw, District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, Commissioner Lester Brown, community leader Spiver Gordon and retired teacher Mary Otieno, challenged the statements made by Morgan and noted specifics of how they viewed progress in the school system. Each speaker indicated that many entities are responsible for students’ success, including parents, teachers, administrators, the community and students themselves. They all said it is not entirely up to the superintendent. One speaker urged the board to find a way to work together for the students.