It was a full house when the Macon County Board of Education met in regular session on August 19th. Questions were raised on moonlighting, cell phone expenses, driver’s texting while driving, student enrollment from other counties, school property lines and hickory nut hazards. Teacher to pupil ratio was a huge concern, especially at the Kindergarten level.
Overcrowded/Out of County Tuition
Board Member Jimmy Cook began, “We are crowded, aren’t we? Over and over, well, we may need to stop receiving students from Smith County and Clay County, and all around who are coming out of the county, to our county, at least for this year, until we decide what we are going to do.” He then referenced a $1200 fee paid, and noted that it doesn’t cover the cost.
Board members later discussed enrollment tuition from other counties, and reported that an estimated 20 are from out of county, some teachers’ children. Members agreed to review more in a work session.
Peer Tutor Coordinator
MCHS Principal Stephanie Meador requested the addition of a non-certified peer tutor coordinator position. Cook asked, “Do you need another teacher?” Principal Meador stated she had no assistants, other than for Special Education.
“If we keep adding 15 and 20 thousand dollars here and there, what’s going to happen?” asked Cook. Hampton replied, “We’re going to have to raise taxes, that’s what’s going to have to happen.”
“Could the three guidance counselors and the graduation coach help fill the need? Why can’t the graduation coach do it?” asked Cook. Meador replied, “That would be a touchy subject.” “Why touchy? Because he’s a football coach?” quizzed Cook. “Everybody needs to work all day,” he continued. “I agree with you sir,” Meador added.
“Not in the budget right?” asked Cook. “No sir”, replied Hampton.
Eventually a motion passed, with one “No” vote from Cook for the position.
Teacher-Pupil Ratio Kindergarten
Hampton advised that 4th grade, at Westside Elementary, was over the required number for state teacher-pupil ratio and that by law they would have to post a position.
Principal Flynn then spoke about the teacher-student ratio in Westside’s three Kindergarten classes. Flynn explained that the inclusion classroom, a special needs class room, has a lower teacher-student ration. The other two classrooms were reported to have 23 and 24 students. “That’s entirely too high for Kindergarten,” he pointed out. He then offered supporting evidence for adding a Kindergarten position. “We’re talking about six-year-olds, and several of those students scored in the singe digits (of a possible 100) on the entrance exam. We’re talking about some very high needs children.” He asked and then explained, “Why are we worried about keeping those numbers low? Five years ago we were 82 percent below proficiency. With inclusion, we’re now 11 percent below proficiency. I feel like the inclusion program is worth saving. But if we put 25 kids in the classroom, you can forget it.” He stressed repeatedly the need for a Kindergarten teacher, “in the worst way.”
Board Member John Wheeley questioned moving some of the teachers around from other grades, and Flynn advised that it just fixes one problem and creates another.
“The state is not giving us a whole lot more money,” advised Chairman Steve Walton, “and the county is not giving us any more. In fact, they’re giving us less.”
Grade K-3 can have up to 25, but the average cannot not exceed 20 explained Shawn Carter, about the current state policy.
Fairlane Elementary Principal Linda Smith asked to speak about the same issue at her school. “We have 11 Kindergarten teachers. We have 206 students enrolled. On the Brigance test their average was 68 percent,” she explained, as she provided the evidence for board members of scores in the single digits. We have 20 Hispanic students… some don’t speak a word of English. It’s going to be a very difficult year.”
“We are educators. We have to look at what the kids need. A classroom of four or five Hispanics in it, and kids scoring single digits on Brigance testing. Kindergarten teachers have more demands on them in many ways than any other teachers,” Smith stated.
“It’s where they learn to read,” stressed Flynn,
It was probably the most pleasant news of the night when Transportation supervisor Larry Holland spoke, “I can do without two buses, Kids have got to be taught.”
After much discussion, the group opted to approve one Kindergarten teacher addition at both Fairlane Elementary and Westside Elementary.
They delayed the purchase of two buses, and agreed to purchase one with stimulus money that will be used for Special Needs Transportation.
Moonlighting in Question
Board Member John Wheeley began a discussion on moonlighting. ‘We’ve got a teacher in our system, that is a director of a new school. The law says that that teacher cannot do that unless it is approved by the board. “49-5-510,” he stated. “The teacher is moonlighting. That’s the law.”
“So in other words, if he’s getting paid for both jobs it’s against the law?” Hampton asked in clarification.
“I do understand your point,” said Hampton. “But I don’t know how he’s getting paid,” noted Hampton. Members discussed the mentioned TCA code and talked about “15 hours.“ We’re probably border line on that with some of our teachers that drive a bus,” Hampton said. Walton, reviewed the code again, referring to the clause on 15 clock hours.
“17 hours and a half, someone noted that bus drivers are paid for a week If they drive both morning and evening. “We pay for 17 and a half,” said Hampton. Members slated further discussion for a work session.
The code they referred to is as follows:
(a) A teacher employed full time by any institution of public education, including higher education, may be employed and paid by the same or another institution for additional part-time work outside the teacher's regular hours, not to exceed fifteen (15) clock hours beyond the teacher's regular employment per week and not to exceed four hundred (400) clock hours out of any nine-month period.
(b) If the additional part-time work is or includes teaching in an institution of higher education, the teacher shall be limited to teaching no more than two (2) courses per quarter or semester.
(c) Such employment shall be approved by the governing board of each institution and the commissioner of personnel where applicable.
[Acts 1973, ch. 205, § 1; 1976, ch. 445, § 1; 1977, ch. 234, § 1; T.C.A., § 49-1319.]
We contacted the Tennessee Department of Education and spoke with Rachel Woods about the code. She referenced the portion, “by any institution of public education,” and said this code does not apply to the private sector.
Texting While Driving
“Bus drivers need to be told that texting while driving a bus is illegal. I’m sure you’ve told them?” Cook addressed Transportation Supervisor Larry Holland. “Absolutely, they know it,” he answered. Cook added, “Bus drivers don’t need to be using cell phones, period. They’ve got a bus load of children. They’ve gone all these years without texting or using a cell phone while driving a bus.”
Bus Arrival At School
“One more problem,” Cook stated, “At least one bus driver doesn’t get there until just about 8 o’clock. They can’t eat their breakfast.”
“It’s a lie,” responded Principal Michael Owens. “I’m telling you every bus is out there before 7:40…I’m out there every morning.”
“We want these children to eat breakfast. They are poor children, many of them,” noted Cook. Chairman Walton asked Cook to get with Owens after the meeting to discuss the reported parent complaints.
Cell Phone Bill
Cook brought up cell phones saying that when the issue came up earlier, they decided, “We can’t afford them,” and mentioned they had been authorized for Randy Robinson in Maintenance, Larry Holland in Transportation, and Director Hampton. He said Steve (Walton) was going over checks. “One person here in the office, submitted a bill for $600. Am I right?”
“Verizon, a year of Verizon service,” replied Walton.
“One of the people here in the office,” noted Cook. “That money needs to be refunded, that $600,” advised Cook.
“It doesn’t come out of our budget,” remarked Hampton. “It comes out of Coordinated School Health. She pays it out of her budget. It’s not a dime of our money.
“We didn’t approve that though,” said Cook.
“We don’t have to,” replied Hampton. Cook then asked, “Isn’t that program for children, and couldn’t that be used to help children in some way?”
“The State Coordinated School Health approved her budget,” replied Hampton.
“It should be for children,” continued Cook.
Hampton referenced a letter of agreement with TSSAA about allowing Trousdale County and Macon County to form a Co-op program in golf with two students from Trousdale.
“Does Trousdale kick in anything to pay coaches…?” asked Chairman Walton. Hampton replied, “Good question,” and that he would check. “We’re going to pay a coach anyway,” remarked Birdwell.
Walton voiced a concern that other schools could come in and take open positions, over kids from Macon County, saying that two Macon County kids could be knocked out of playing.
Cindy Gammons spoke saying, “Our kids don’t think Hartsville kids are beating them out…they are considered part of the team.”
The motion passed, with Walton’s single voted of no, replying, “I’m going to say no. I think it ought to be Macon County kids first.”
Director Hampton reported unofficially about school enrollment, saying after 10 days rolls will be purged and counts will be official. He estimated enrollment to be up 125 to 150 students overall. “That’s about four percent,” remarked Walton, who then asked if they can request BEP money immediately if the growth is more than two percent. “We want to do that.” Hampton reported that he would discuss that with persons from the comptroller’s office the next day.
Property Line at RBS
Principal Don Jones spoke about running the property line at the Red Boiling Springs School. “Bringing in the portable, we’ve lost 19 parking places.” He reported parking in ditches, in graveyards, basically everywhere. We need the line run to know exactly where we are, what we own.”
He also expressed a concern for a hickory nut tree dropping hickory nuts over on the football field, creating a hazard and a dead tree that could also create a safety hazard. Board Members agreed that a survey should be done.
The issue of coaching supplements was introduced by Director Hampton. He stated that in the Spring, he was asked to collect information on supplements that are paying coaching personnel in neighboring districts. Hampton provided data classified by experience and school level. Steve Walton recommended additional study, and suggested tabling to a work session. Ronald Birdwell commented that it was in line with other schools.
Marcia Briggie/Music in Schools
Guest Marcia Briggie appeared providing information on efforts to provide a volunteer music program to students at Red Boiling Springs Junior High and High School. Briggie worked as a volunteer with RBS Teacher Joyce Jones in a summer program. Briggie is hoping the group will have met the criteria for a permanent music program in the school.
She shared how a group of students had met two times per week, four hours per day, for six weeks, and were exposed to a variety of instruments- borrowed keyboards, guitars, drums. “All volunteer, all borrowed,” she stressed.
She explained that at present, students in Junior High are now able to choose between Study Hall or Music in seventh and eight grades. She talked about plans for a choir and plans for completing the one-year volunteer music program. No questions or comments were made by the school board.
Board members approved improvements to Westside Cafeteria hoods and then delaying other older school hood renovations until Spring or Summer of 2011.
Two work sessions were schedules: August 31st at 7 p.m. for a regular work session with several items, and a special work session to be held at Macon County Junior High School, on September 16th, when County Commissioners will be invited to hear more about school space concerns.
The next regular scheduled session of the Board is September 9, 2010 at 7 p.m.