School board presented update on STEM Program in school system



Shown at Display of STEM Program, L to R: Nashambia Sewell, Science Teacher; School Board Members, Mr. William Morgan; Dr. Carol P. Zippert; Ms. Carrie Dancy; Ms. Kashaya Cockrell and Mr. Leo Branch. and Pictured: David Peterson, Joe N. Webb and Superintendent, Dr. James Carte displaying Citations.

At the regular meeting of the Greene County Board of Education, held Monday, October 15, 2018, Superintendent James Carter provided the board an update of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program as it operates in the school system. Ms. Nashambia Sewell, who joined the school system as a science teacher this year, led the presentation on STEM skills and careers. She noted that a goal of the program is to guide students to think of the skills needed in today’s workplace. “Most employers want workers who are able to reason and solve problems using some math, science, or technology,” she indicated.

In addition to intensive course work, the STEM program will engage students in related exposures through various field trips. STEM is designed to prepare students for various careers, providing them with skills not just in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but also in communication, creative abilities, leadership and organizational skills. Superintendent Carter reported that the Transportation Department received favorable review from the State Department of Education for school bus safety inspection for 2017. Citations were presented to transportation staff Johnny Pelt, David Peterson, Nathaniel Webb and Transportation Coordinator, Joe N. Webb for attaining the goal of excellence. Dr. Carter also noted that the Greene County School Board received the AASB School Board Member Academy President’s Award 2018 for demonstrating a commitment to excellence in education through boardsmanship training. Board member Kashaya Cockrell reached Levels 2 & 3 in AASB training; Board Member Carol Zippert reached Level 4. In other business, the board acted on the following personnel items recommended by the superintendent: * Approved the resignation of Ms. Sadie Moore, Secretary – Eutaw Primary School, Effective September 12, 2018 * Approved employment of Rachael Nixon, Secretary, Eutaw Primary School for 2018-2019 school year. * Approved employment of Wanda Gaitor, Part-time Secretary, Greene County High School, and Part-time Secretary at Greene County Career Center. Approved the appointment of Mr. Fredrick Square, as School District Safety Coordinator, for the 2018-2019 school year. The board acted on the following administrative services recommended by the superintendent: * Approved request to accept counter offer from Town of Boligee for Paramount School Property, pending clarification that it is for 15 acres and other conditions of use and pending completion of survey. * Approved request to survey and appraise Eatman School property. * Approved request to survey and appraise Mt. Hebron property. * Approve contract between Greene County Board and Kim Herren, Special Education Services for Greene County Head Start. * Approve contract between Greene County Board and Mattie Strode, Special Education Services for Homebound Students. * Approved contact between Greene County Board and Woods Therapeutic Services, Inc., for Special Education Personal Care Aides. * Approved contract for Greene County High School Basketball Team, to participate in interscholastic Athletic Contest against non-member school basketball tournament in Ft. Walton Beach Florida, December 27 – 29, 2018. * Approved contract between Greene County High School and West Central Official Association during the 2018-2019 school year. Approved field trip request for Eutaw Primary School to attend Audubon Aquarium and Zoo in New Orleans, May, 2019. Approved Career & Technical Education Policies: 1. Plan for Achieving Excellence; 2. Live Work Guidelines; 3. Instructions for Handling Career Tech Data; 4. Enrollment Procedures; 5. Safety Procedures; 6. Adult Sex Offender. The board approved the following instructional items. * Statement of Commitment regarding School Safety. * Policies for the following programs: 1. Student Suicide Prevention (Jason Flatt ACT); 2. Student Conduct and Supervision; 3.Corporal Punishment. Approve the following Plan and Policies for Federal Program for 2019: 1. Foster Care Plan; 2. LEA Consolidated Plan; 3. McKinney-Vento District Homeless Policy; 4. Dispute Resolution for Homeless, Foster Care, English Learner, Migrant, and Immigrant students; 5. Enrollment Policy for Homeless, Foster Care, English Learner Migrant and Immigrant Students. The financial reports were presented by Ms. LaVonda Blair, CSFO and Mr. Marvin Taylor, Interim CSFO.

Superintendent Carter updates board on school initiatives

In the recent meeting of the Greene County Board of Education, held Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, Superintendent James H. Carter, Sr. reported on the following initiatives in the school system.
*The Backpack Meal Program has been implemented at Eutaw Primary as a pilot this year. This program is a partnership between the Greene County School Board and the Tuscaloosa Food Bank
*Greene County High School will begin producing a Greene County High newspaper this fall.
* STEAM program this year will provide students an opportunity to show their skills in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Each program will have a Robotics Component. STEAM is not just about providing access to resources or programs; it is about providing quality teaching and learning experiences to students – how much is needed in a curriculum to ensure students are career and college ready.
*The school system has been approved for a grant in the amount of $15,000 for the At-Risk Program, Launching Excellence and Achievement Project.
*The system will develop a social media lounge for teachers and students to go on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat to express their support for public schools; develop a College and Career Ready Room for students to apply for colleges and universities; also to provide students the opportunities to apply for financial aid and scholarships.
*The system will implement an action plan to decrease the absentee rate for students and teachers. This plan will address the specific reason why absenteeism is more problematic in some schools versus others.
*The system will pursue T-Mobile to give hotspots to students who do not have internet access at home.
*Congratulations to Robert Brown Middle School on the very innovative concept of going out to visit the school community, instead of community visiting the school.

In other business the board approved the following personnel items recommended by Superintendent Carter.
* Employment: Carl Oliver, Part-time Maintenance/ Part-time Custodian, Greene County High School; Employ Additional Resource Officer at Greene County High School; Additional Service contract(s) for the following employees at Robert Brown Middle School for the 2017 – 2018 academic year. (Separate Contract): Corey Cockrell, Head Girls Basketball Coach; Henry Miles, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach:
* Catastrophic Leave: Sadie Moore, Secretary, Eutaw Primary School.
Family Medical Leave: Verna Nickson, Bus Driver, Department of Transportation. * Leave without pay: Siegfried Williams, request leave of absence for every Tuesday in the month, beginning August 22 – December 12, 2017. Total of 17 days. * Travel: Rachel Nickson to travel to Atlanta, GA to attend Save the Children Cluster Meeting on November 14 -17, 2017.
The board approved the following administrative services recommended by the superintendent. First Reading: Student Discipline Implementation Guide; Email Acceptable Use Policy; Travel Policy; Capital Plan 2017-2018; Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll; Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. Katrina Sewell, CSFO.
School Board CSFO, Katrina Sewell, presented the following report for September. Total revenue for September was $734,680.56; From the accounts payable register, state funds expended totaled $57,652.40; federal funds expended totaled $92,143.89; local funds expended totaled $321,578.79. Accounts payable totaled $471,285.08. Payroll expenditures for the month totaled $861,819.08. The current fund balance of $3,274,984.27 does not include final expenditures for accounts payable in FY 2017.
Attorney Hank Sanders, in his report to the board, advised that a lawsuit has been recently filed by the Alabama Attorney General against six counties where electronic bingo operates. “If this lawsuit succeeds, the Greene County School System, along with other entities, will lose funds,” Sanders noted. Attorney Sanders also informed the board that a law suit filed by an employee has been settled, but the employee is seeking more.

University of West Alabama receives approval for a charter school; Will this help or hurt public education in Sumter County?

A News Analysis
By: John Zippert,Co-Publisher

The Alabama Public Charter School Commission on June 27, 2017 approved the application of the University of West Alabama for a charter school on campus.
Dr. Ken Tucker, President of UWA has been vigorously promoting the idea of a charter school since the end of last year. Community meetings were held in March 2017 in Livingston, York, Emelle and Epes to solicit public comments and input on the proposed charter school.
The mission, as stated on the website of the University’s Charter School, is to be a rural, diverse K-12 school that cultivates independent thought, promotes the building of character and civic responsibility. The school is committed to preparing all students for personal and professional success through the discovery of individual learning pathways in a rigorous and integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) focused, project-based and place-based curriculum.
The school ties into other components of the University’s educational program including its Black Belt Teacher Corps, Center for Excellence in Teaching, Rural Schools Collaborative and others.
The school is proposed to open a pre-K through 5th grade in 2018-2019, and add subsequent grades in the following years. Initially the school will be located on the UWA campus but other alternative sites are also being explored.
The charter school will have its own private non-profit board of directors to control the school. The University’s board will not govern the school, according to the website, but the initial work and funding has been sponsored and coordinated with UWA.
The website states, “ A charter school provides an alternative to students and parents. According to the Alabama Kid’s Count Data Book, there are more than 2,500 K-12 students in Sumter County. Of this number, just over 1,700 are associated with a school located in Sumter County. This reveals a deficit of more than 800 students who are either enrolled in a school system outside Sumter County or not enrolled at all. The establishment of a charter school in Sumter County gives those students another educational option.”
Where are these 800 students? Some of the younger ones are in Headstart or Early Headstart; some attend schools in neighboring counties, e.g., Demopolis, Pickens County, Tuscaloosa; and some attend Sumter Academy, which was established in the 1960’s to accommodate white children who did not want to attend integrated schools. Recently, Sumter Academy announced it was closing its doors due to lack of enrollment.

President Ken Tucker says that the proposed charter school will help to deal with depopulation, loss of business and industry, skilled workforce shortages, poverty and lack of child well being. Marcus Campbell, Chair of the Sumter County Commission says he was on an exploratory committee for the charter school and was told that it would help to attract new industry and people to the community.
The charter school will be funded based on the state per-pupil allocation. If the charter school draws from children attending the public schools, then it will hurt and reduce the budget for the existing public schools in the county. The charter school seems to sidestep this concern by focusing on the students, mostly white, from Sumter County, who seemingly chose not to attend public schools in the county.
Ms. Daisybelle Quinney, Sumter County School Board member says, “I am opposed to this charter school, it further divides the community and takes resources from public education. If UWA was so concerned and interested in the welfare and future of Sumter County students why didn’t they come to meet with our Board and Superintendent and help to bring all the students together in one great school system.”
Ms. Julene Delaine, another SC school Board member said,
“I am 100% for public schools. I think it is time for people in Sumter County, Black and white, to come together to build up and make things better, not worse and tear things apart.”
Delaine also pointed out that members of the last graduating class at Sumter Central had entered college at a sophomore level because of taking Advanced Placement classes in the public school and that students earned $6.5 million in college scholarships.
An official release, faxed to the Democrat from the Sumter County Board of Education, stated the following: “The Sumter County Board of Education will continue to improve all aspects of our academic and extra curricular programs. At this time we do not have any comments on the UWA charter school.”
Ms. Drucilla Jackson, Vice-Chair of the Sumter County Commission, said, “ I graduated from UWA but what they are doing to set up a new school to take resources from the public schools is shameful and unacceptable. They are going to take a few of our brightest and best students out of the public schools but most of the students will be white students fleeing school integration. The saddest part of this is that white folks need to face up to living and working in a society with Black people if we are going to have real change in the Black Belt.”
There are many questions that the people of Sumter and surrounding counties need to ask about this charter school. How many students and resources will they take from Sumter County Public Schools and Headstart? How diverse will their student body really be and how will they insure this? What kind of teachers will they have at the school?; will they be properly credentialized? Why does the charter school need a separate board that has only two African-American members in a county with a 70% Black majority?
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, a Greene County School Board member said, “ It is undeniable that this charter school will take resources from the public schools but the real issue is that UWA and its white supporters do not accept or want to be governed and controlled by a Board of Education and Superintendent elected by a Black majority population in Sumter County. How will UWA help education in the Alabama Black Belt if they do not trust or believe in Black leadership?”