Greene County Schools use funds resulting from COVID-19 to improve academic program, staff development, facilities upgrade

To support schools and districts in addressing the impact of COVID-19, Congress has provided financial support through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Funds are allocated to each state in the same proportion as their Title I, Part A grants. In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included $13 billion in ESSER funds. In December 2020, an additional $54 billion for ESSER II was allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized another $122 billion for ESSER III (also called “ARP ESSER”) in March 2021.  With the CARES ACT of March 2020, Alabama was allocated $217 M for its K-12 schools, administered through ESSER 1. The Greene County School System received approximately $864,000. ESSER I provided resources for additional student services in curriculum and instruction; staff development and professional services; Special Education Services; PPE supplies and safety and sanitation of facilities in preparation for students to return to on site classes; technology including learning aids for students’ virtual classes; transportation; health services which included equipping nurses stations; other sundry services for the system. These funds must be spent by 2022. Following the CRRSA Act signed December, 2020, Alabama received $899 M for ESSER II. Greene County School System has been allocated approximately $3.3 M in ESSER II funds. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, the system is in the process of completing its ESSER II plan, which must be submitted to the State Board of Education by June, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that 50% of these funds can be allocated to upgrading facilities, with the remaining supporting curriculum and learning loss with enhanced summer school programs; technology expansion and upgrade across the system; staff development; continued safety measures in facilities; supplies, etc. These funds must be spent by 2023. In the recently passed American Rescue Plan of March 2021, Alabama is likely to receive $2 B to distribute through the ESSER 3 fund. Although the specific guidelines have not been released, more than 80% of these funds will be used to address unfinished learning and supporting the school system’s return to in-person learning. The ARP specifically states that the public school system must spend 20% of ESSER funds to directly address student learning loss. Districts have the flexibility to use the ESSER funds on any “activity authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” As a condition for receiving ESSER funds, state education agencies must continue to financially support K-12 public schools (maintenance of effort) at the same level or greater in fiscal 2022 and 2023 as they did on the average of fiscal 2017-2019. Similarly, state agencies and local districts may not reduce funding on a per-pupil basis (maintenance of equity). As the Legislature prepares to pass a state education budget, it cannot reduce funding to local school districts or the state risks losing ESSER funds. This is not expected to be an issue, with both Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature supporting increases in state funding.

GCHS graduation scheduled for Friday, May 21 Superintendent reports 53% of student enrollment returns to on-site classes

The Greene County Board of Education held its April 19, 2021 regular meeting face-to face in the Board’s Central Office, the first since November, 2020. All board members were in attendance and observed social distancing and wearing masks. In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones provided enrollment data of students since the Phase II Hybrid Plan went into effect on April 5, 2021. Eutaw Primary School reported 214 students (64.4 %) returning to on site classes; Robert Brown Middle School reported 184 students (52.8%) returning; and Greene County High School with 133 (42%) returning. “I am pleased that 511 (53.8%) of our students have returned to on site classes. We are continuing to provided our virtual academic program to the those students who have not chosen to return yet,” he said. Dr. Jones noted that he continues to monitor the status of COVID-19 rates in Greene County and surrounding areas. “Greene County had a positivity rate of 4.5% for the previous 14 days, but the risk factor was high, due to nine recent cases,” he stated. According to Jones, since Phase II has been implemented, zero cases have been detected in the schools, however one individual is in quarantine, due to exposure. Jones announced that Greene County High School 2021 graduation is scheduled for Friday, May 21, at 6:00 pm on the athletic field at Robert Brown Middle School, providing weather permits. Students will be allowed four invitations; social distancing and wearing masks and related safety measures will be observed. Regarding his report on facilities, the superintendent reported that water coolers have been installed in all school facilities; hot water will be added, where needed, to the bathrooms at Eutaw Primary and Robert Brown Middle. Phase I of the Bat Removal Project at RMB is completed, with Phase II to include installation of vents. The re-roofing at the central office did not meet the April 15 deadline due to inclement weather. The project is expected to be completed by mid May. The CSFO Lavonda Blair reported that the school system is financially sound, with an excess of $4 million in the combined fund balance. Blair presented the following financial snapshot as of February 28, 2021: General Fund Balance – $980,540.25; Accounts Payable Check Register – $390,509.33; Payroll Register – $811,704.03; and combined Fund Balance at $4,032,471.83. The board took action notifying the CSFO that it intends to continue her contract. The board approved the follow personnel items recommended by the superintendent. * Rescind employment of Vera Richardson, Special Services Bus Aide. * Employment of Stephanie L. Spencer, Special Services Bus Aide. * Catastrophic Leave for Bridgette Ward, from January 1, 2021 thru August 24, 2021. * Resignation of Brianna Bryant, Pre-K Teacher, Eutaw Primary School. * Retirement of Willie Gilmore, Cosmetology Instructor, Career Center, Effective June 1, 2021. The board approved the following administrative items. * Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll. * MariMac Academic Solutions, to perform ACT Testing services to Greene County Schools. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Denise Horton-Behavioral Aide, Eutaw Primary School. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Eleanor Smalls, Behavioral Aide, Greene County High School. * Approval of 2021-2022 School Calendar. * Adoption of Math Textbook Series. * Professional Development Agreement between Greene County Board and Kathi Wilson, LLC. for the 2021-2022 School Year. * School Resource Officer Contract for 2020-2021 School Year.

Greene County Schools equip classrooms to protect returning students and staff

The Greene County School System resumed face-to-face instruction at its school facilities utilizing the Phase II Hybrid Plan, beginning Monday, April 5, 2021. As shown in photos, each student desk has a three-sided plexiglass shield and masks are required for students and all school personnel. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, temperature checks are administered each morning automatically as students and staff enter the facility. Hand sanitizers are available in each classroom and throughout the facility. Air purifiers are installed in each classroom. Dr. Jones stated that he is very pleased with the conduct of students and staff on the first days back at the schools. “ I want to commend our students, teachers and staff for the outstanding cooperation they demonstrated on returning to the face-to-face academic program. Everyone wore their masks and were sensitive to keeping safe distances and just trying to keep each other safe,” he said. Superintendent Jones noted the on-site school enrollments for the initial day back: Eutaw Primary with 214 students; Robert Brown Middle School with 220 students and Greene County High School with 125 students. Virtual classes are still available. Students who are returning to on-site classes are scheduled by the beginning letter of the last name. Students with last names A to M will attend classes on Monday and Tuesday; students with last names N to Z will attend classes Wednesday and Thursday. All academic programs are virtual on Fridays.

Superintendent Jones schedules reopening of on-site classes in Greene County Schools

Dr. Corey Jones

At the regular meeting of the Greene County Board of Education, held virtually, March 15, 2021, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones announced the reopening of schools, Monday, April 5, with on-site academic classes. Dr. Jones presented an overview of the Road Map to Reopening utilizing the system’s Phase II Hybrid Schedule. According to Jones, the decision to bring the students back is based on several factors including the substantial decrease in COVID-19 positive rates for the county; all school employees having had the opportunity to begin their vaccination process; continuous sanitation of all school premises; placement of plexiglass dividers in classrooms for teachers and students and other related safety measures. Dr. Jones noted that more than 50% of school personnel have had their first coronavirus vaccination. Reopening plans include the following: Students with last names beginning with A to M will attend classes all day Mondays and Tuesdays; Students with last names beginning N to Z will attend classes all day Wednesdays and Thursdays; Students will log in virtually on Fridays for tutoring or enrichment. Sanitizing of all facilities will also occur on Fridays; Students and school personnel must wear masks, reusable masks will be provided by the school system; School lunches will be served in the classrooms; Students school uniforms have been suspended for remaining current school term, but appropriate dress codes will be in place; School buses will operate at one half capacity with planned seating separation. The system’s reopening plan will be posted on the web site. Parents may elect to keep their children in the all virtual program. The superintendent emphasized that it is imperative to get students back with face-to-face instruction to further prepare for the State Department of Education ACAP Assessment. “This assessment will provide scientific basis of just where our students are academically,” he said. Dr. Jones announced that he is planning a summer school program with details to be provided later. The CSFO, Lavonda Blair, presented a snapshot financial report for January 2021. She indicated that the school system continues in a sound financial state, maintaining appropriate cash and investment reserves. Ms. Blair reported that, due to the coronavirus, there was a delay in the system receiving property taxes on a timely basis from the Revenue Commissioner’s office, however, there is an increase in the tax receipts. Ms. Blair noted that the State Examiners of Public Accounts office is conducting a routine financial and legal compliance audit of the Greene County Board of Education for the period October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020. In other business the board approved the following personnel items recommended by Superintendent Jones. * Employment: Michael Moore, Maintenance, Greene County School System; Tina Cherry, Full-time Custodian, Eutaw Primary School; Vera Richardson, Special Services Bus Aide, Department of Transportation. * Retirement: Jeffery Wesley, Physical Education Teacher, Eutaw Primary School. • Catastrophic Leave: Kalya Gray, Science Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School. The board approved the following administrative items recommended. * Emergency contract with Conserv Wildlife Services, to resolve bat issues at Robert Brown Middle School. * County School System establish and maintain only one Athletic Booster Club with all funds being deposited therein and properly shared among teams regardless of gender. * Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.

Superintendent Jones lays out conditions for reopening schools

At the Greene County Board of Education’s virtual meeting on February 22, 2021, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones informed the board that he has created a School Reopening Committee to explore the conditions that will be favorable for face-to face instruction again. Jones stated that there will be no recommendation to the board to reopen schools until all employees have had the opportunity for vaccinations; the county’s COVID positivity rate has declined to a safer rate; a determination is made on the number of students to bring back at a time; and a summer school plan is explored to assist students to remain on grade level.
Superintendent Jones noted that the committee will contact surrounding school districts that are currently providing face-to-face instruction, and what safety protocols are in place – what has worked well for them. “The committee will use this information to strengthen our re-opening plan, ” he said. According to the superintendent, the school facilities are already equipped with plexiglass dividers and hand sanitizers in all classrooms; foggers and other cleaning methods are employed on a regular basis, as well as a process to increase air flow throughout the building.
Board member Veronica Richardson raised the question on a timeline for students receiving COVID vaccines. Dr. Jones agreed to seek information regarding state plans for student vaccinations.
Jones noted that on Saturday, Feb. 20, over 200 citizens were vaccinated at the Greene County Health Department in Eutaw. The next scheduled dates for vaccinations are February 24 and March 3. He said that Greene County had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 11.4% for the previous 14 days. “This is a good sign, if we can just continue on this path,” he stated.
The CSFO Ms. Lavanda Blair presented the snapshot financial report for December. She noted that the system is financially strong, even with the current decrease in property and sales taxes. She provided clarity on the budget adjustments involving carryover funds to the current fiscal year.
The board approved the following recommendations presented by the superintendent.
Personnel: Arnthena Hill, Special Education Consultant, for the remainder of the school year.* Administrative Services: January 2021 Budget Amendment; Payment of all bills, claims and payroll.

Greene County Schools establish tutorial partnership with Stillman College

From the Office of School Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones


Greene County Schools and Stillman College have established a partnership with the goal of supporting students during this unprecedented time. The system’s academic program has been virtual since the opening of the 2020-2021 school year.
Greene County School System has solicited the assistance of Stillman College to assist in filing the gap that has occurred with our students during the COVID 19 pandemic. The tutoring program focuses on those students in grades 4-12 needing assistance in successfully navigating online learning as well as assisting students who need more practice in all core subjects.
The Peer Tutors are members of the special Harte Honors College, the scholarship program at Stillman, who major in Education, Journalism, History, or Psychology and are selected by each Academic Dean. The Peer Tutors are assigned to students at a ratio of one tutor per five students for elementary students (Grades 4 & 5) and one tutor per three students for middle school and high school students (Grades 6-12). Ratios are subject to change and depend upon the number of students in Greene County Schools who take advantage of this amazing opportunity.
Currently there are 35 students from Robert Brown Middle School and 25 students from Greene County High engaged in the Stillman Tutorial Program.
To ensure the success of this endeavor, Stillman has also provided a Program Administrator selected from the college faculty who will appropriately assign peer tutors to students receiving the tutorial services. The Program Administrator will review the daily and weekly progress reports on the program outcomes for each elementary, middle, and high school student enrolled in the program.
In addition to providing tutoring services to students in grades 4-12, Stillman College and the Stillman Foundation also provide a weekly update on the academic status and improvements on each student participating in the program as well as recommendations and suggestions for specific course work assignments.
The program is virtual and is in session Monday – Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For More Information regarding the Greene County Schools/Stillman College Tutoring Program, contact Dr. Charla Jordan-Riley, at 205-346-9540 or cjordan@greene.k12.al.us.

School board holds emergency meeting to consider personnel items

The Greene County Board of Education met in an emergency call meeting on Thursday, January 28, 2021 to act on personnel recommendations from Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones.
The board approved the recommendation to accept the resignation of Dr. Jamara Wright as Special Education Coordinator for the school district. Subsequently, the board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to employ Ms. Wanda Blakely in the position of Special Education Coordinator for the school district.
These were the only items considered at the call meeting.

School board acts to secure Birdine school property, anticipating sale to Town of Forkland

Shown above former Birdine School in Forkland, AL

The Greene County Board of Education met in a virtual meeting, Tuesday, January 19, 2021with all board members in attendance. The sale of the former Birdine school property to the Town of Forkland was among the superintendent’s recommendations approved by the board.
In preparation for this sale, the board had to certify to the State Superintendent of Education that any funds derived from this sale will be used for public school purposes and that it is to the benefit of the Greene County School District that Birdine School Property be sold.
According to school board legal counsel, Attorney Hank Sanders, years ago county boards of education could not own real property. School property had to be in the name of the State of Alabama. The Birdine School Property was in this category and even after boards of education could own real property, property owned by the state remained with the state.
“The Greene County Board of Education is now working to get the Birdine School Property out of the state and in the Greene County Board of Education by authorizing the superintendent and board president to execute the necessary documents of certification as required by the Alabama State Department of Education, ” Attorney Sanders stated. According to Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, the Town of Forkland is prepared to purchase the Birdine School Property when all state requirements are met.
In his report, Superintendent Jones noted that the total positive coronavirus cases among school personnel is 18 and to date the total that reportedly have been exposed/isolated/quarantined is 40. He assured the board the all school facilities are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized daily.
Jones provided updates on the maintenance and repairs associated with various school facilities, including an update on the new roofing project at the central office.
The following personnel items were approved by the board:
Maternity Leave for Kalyn Bryant, Science Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School, effective January 4, 2021.
Employment of Angela Taylor, Long-term Substitute Science Teacher, Robert Middle School; and Milton Jones, Greene County Board Maintenance Department.
Retirement of Atausha Tinker-Mitchell, effective January 7, 2021.
Rescind employment of Latonya Taylor, Special Needs Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School. She did not accept position.
The board approved the following administrative service items:
Sale of Birdine Elementary School to the Town of Forkland.
Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.
Approval for the Extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response ACT (FFCRA) Leave until March 31, 2021.
Ms. Lavonda Blair, CSFO, presented the following financial snapshot for the period ending November 30, 2020: General Fund Bank Balance – $1,124,226.97; Accounts Payable Check Register – $450,615.36; Payroll Register – $815,656.88; Combined Fund Balance – $4,424,586.70; Local Revenue: Property/Sales Taxes – $136,055.01; Bingo – $57, 873; Total Local Revenue – $193,928.01

Coronavirus keeps school system in virtual mode Superintendent Jones provides academic updates through curriculum coordinator

The Greene County Board of Education held its December 21, 2020 meeting virtually, due to the rise in COVID-19 positive cases in the county. In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones stated that the rate of cases for Greene County was above 33%. He noted that the safe rate to consider returning to school facilities is 5%. “ With these statistics, there is no way we can move from the Phase I approach in our academic program,” he said.
According to Dr. Jones, 14 school employees have tested positive for the coronavirus since the opening of school with 37 having to be quarantined. “At this time we have 16 employees currently in quarantine,” he stated. Jones explained that, fortunately, teachers who were in quarantine were able to conduct their virtual classes from home without taking leave days. “We try our best to be compassionate during these difficult times,” he said. Superintendent Jones presented the system’s Curriculum Coordinator Consultant, Ms. Malysa Chandler, who gave an update of her role with the instructional staff. Ms Chandler noted that her work with the Greene County School System began last school year at Robert Brown Middle School, however, her work this year has extended across the system. According to Chandler, a major component of her role has been to assist in the development of a curriculum map and pacing guide for the system. She also assists teachers with lesson plans, suggesting various activities to enhance student engagement. “I actually observe the virtual classrooms of teachers, and Greene County has some awesome teachers,” she stated.Chandler reported that there are classes with excessive student failures and, working with school leaders, small recovery groups have been organized to assist those students. “The students who have participated in the recovery groups have shown significant improvement,” she stated.
According to Chandler, virtual team meetings will begin in January in an effort to link middle school and high school curriculum, including a designed component for the infusion of Black History across the curriculum.
Chandler noted that she is also prepared to assist teachers who have not satisfied the practice exams. “I would like to have input in the district’s Continuing Improvement Plan,” she said.
In other business, the board approved the following personnel items recommended by the superintendent.
Employment: Jamara Wright, School District Special Education Coordinator; LaTonya Taylor, Special Needs Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School; Jessica Lake, from CNP Department to full time custodian at Robert Brown Middle School, effective January 2021; Carl Oliver from Maintenance Aid/Custodian to Lead Maintenance; Sarah Wallace, Substitute History Teacher, Greene County High School.
Retirement: Samuel Newton, Janitor, Eutaw Primary School effective January 1, 2021; Alfonzo Noland, Maintenance Department, effective January 1, 2021.
FMLA Employee Leave: Tyler Mitchell, History Teacher, Greene County High School from October 12, 2020 – TBD, due to child’s daycare being closed during this time.
The board approved the following administrative items:
Drug Testing and Screening Agreement between Greene County Board and Safety-First Behavioral Health System, Inc.
HVAC Program Agreement between Greene County Board and Wallace State Community College.
Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.
Following Attorney Hank Sanders report, the board approved a resolution which sets out the completion of the sale of the former Mt. Hebron Pre-School property to the non-profit organization, SCORE. Attorney Sanders also noted that the former Birdine School property, which is still under state ownership, is now in the process of being transferred to the Greene County School Board and will become available for the board to take further action. The Greene County Board of Education agreed to pay all full time active employees a one-time supplement of $500 each and all part-time employees a one-time supplement of $250 each in the pay period for December. These one-time supplements are for additional services provided during the 2020-2021 school year based on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

School Board installs three members; re-elects Zippert and Cockrell as President and Vice President

A key feature of the November Greene County Board of Education meeting, held Monday, Nov.16, 2020, was the installation of three board members to six year terms each. First time board member, Mrs. Veronica Richardson, of the Dollarhide Community, now represents District 3. Mr. Leo Branch and Ms. Carrie Dancy were reelected in 2020 to their respective Districts 4 and 5. Greene County District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne officiated at the installation.
November is also the designated time that Alabama school boards must reorganize, selecting a president and a vice president; setting regular meeting dates and time. Dr. Carol P. Zippert and Ms. Kashaya Cockrell were unanimously re-elected as Board President and Vice President, respectively, for the 2020-2021 year. The board also agreed to continue its current monthly meeting schedule of the third Monday at 4:30 pm in the Central Office.
In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones began his remarks with an update on the current COVID-19 positivity rate in Greene County, 22.13%. He stated that this impacts the school system’s overall goal of moving the academic program from Phase I – total virtual learning. “Health officials state that the COVID-19 positivity rate must be no more than 5% before it is safe to bring students and school personnel in face-to-face classes,” he said. He noted that it is likely that the system will begin the third nine week period continuing in Phase I if the coronavirus pandemic continues on this rising path.
Jones emphasized that the system is enacting multiple approaches to enhance student achievement during these difficult times. These efforts include retaining a curriculum specialist to assist teachers in designing and implementing effective class presentations that engage students in their learning. ACT tutors provide enrichment and tutoring, including Booth Camps before the actual test to further prepare students. The second year of the STAR Academy targets 7th & 8th graders providing more intensive studies in the core curriculum, and the 21st Century After-School Tutorial and Enrichment Program is also conducted virtually for students at Eutaw Primary and Robert Brown Middle Schools.
According to Dr. Jones, his office is in the process of arranging for additional tutors from Stillman College to provide one-on-one assistance to local students. “The Stillman tutors will be selected from honor students in the Department of Education,” he said.
Superintendent Jones announced that he is planning Virtual Town Hall meetings to connect with parents and other community persons to continue the efforts of engaging them in students’ education.
The board approved the following recommendations presented by Superintendent Jones.
Employment: Gerald Holloway as bus driver, Department of Transportation; Quinten Walton as Math teacher, Robert Brown Middle School; James Gaines, Supervisor, Transportation; Department; Tabitha Smith as long-term substitute for sixth grade Social Studies at Robert Brown Middle School.
One-time stipend for Corey Cockrell for Athletics Training with Greene County High School football team.
Resignation of Ms. Angelia Hood as Special Education Coordinator, effective January 29, 2021.
Memorandum between Greene County Board of Education and Stillman College for academic tutorial assistance to benefit students in their virtual classroom learning experience, to be prepared by Superintendent Jones and Attorney Hank Sanders.
In her report to the board, which represented the financial reports of September, 2020, CSFO, Ms. Lavonda Blair, stated that the finances of the school system were in good condition. She reported the following in her financial snapshot: General Fund Balance – $913,320.14; Check Register Accountability Report – $1,026,615.82 (This amount includes $326,131.13 debt service payment for the Star Academy Program, which is reimbursable from a State Grant); Payroll Register – $822,117.51; Combined Fund Balance – $4,290.024.18.
Local revenue totaled $158,128.65, with $109.075.65 from property/sale taxes and $49,063 from bingo.
Ms. Blair noted that the system was able to collect back revenue from the GEAR-UP Program, back to 2015, in the amount of $20,000.