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School Board Tackles Long Agenda, TAP Discussed in Depth

By Anne Waits
web posted December 13, 2013

JOHNSTON The Edgefield County School Board had its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, with the main orders of business being the Audit Report by George Kennedy of Elliott Davis; the update on technology portion of the 502 Project Update presented by James Courtney, director of facilities and transportation; and the TAP Program Update by Dennis Dotterer, head person over TAP in South Carolina.

Superintendent Greg Anderson recognized Athletic Director Lewis Scott for his years of service and announced that he would be leaving his position. Scott was presented with a plaque by Board Chairman Carroll Wates.

In a Special Order of Business, Joel Jolly talked about the need for a middle school baseball team.  "We don't have JET and Merriwether Middle baseball," he said.  "While I'm not the one to talk to about baseball, I've talked to a lot of parents--ones who know baseball and love it. They want to see it happen. If we're going to see successful high school ball, we've got to have middle school baseball."

He stated that a baseball team for Merriwether Middle School students would help get them in tune with Strom Thurmond High School and would build bonds.
He added that most of the successful middle school baseball is on the other side of the river.

Chairman Wates told him the Board will look into the matter.
In other business, Van Clark of Strom Thurmond High School was given permission to take the band to Orlando, Fla. to perform in the Stars Program at Universal Studio March 19-22, 2014.

The Board also approved the minutes for the Nov. 12, 2013 meeting and the Nov. 7, 2013 Discipline Hearing.

Under Instructional Services, Policy JLCD, Assisting Students with Medication, was approved on first reading. Assistant Superintendent Donna Strom informed the Board that the policy was updated to match some of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulations and requirements.

Also under Instructional Services, a new math course at Strom Thurmond High School was approved by the Board. The course was presented by Strom Thurmond High School Principal Jill Jet and math teacher Michelle Goforth,

"It is a course to help our students to better understand mathematics," said Goforth. "It traces the development of mathematics...It is for those students needing an additional math course." It is taken mostly by 11th graders and honor students, although not limited to them. she added.

Also approved by the Board was Policy JICJ, Possession/Use of Electronic Communication Devices on second reading. "In other words, 'Bring Your Own Device, '" said Courtney. "There is no elementary component at this time."

The Strom Thurmond Career Center Timber Harvest Proposal was discussed in open session, but no action was taken until after executive session.

"These trees were planted by the FFA 40 years ago and it is time to harvest them," said Courtney. "There is also some beetle infestation and thinning. Log Creek Timber Company has presented a contract. The FFA would like to use the proceeds for funding of an implement shed for the AG/ED Department."

In the Audit Report, given under the Fiscal Services Section, Kennedy referred the Board to three items: the Audit Report itself; a copy of the report sent to the Board of Trustees; and a shorter document with the high points, which he went over with the Board.

"The audit opinion was sent to the Department of Education  by the deadline," he said. "We gave an unmodified or clean opinion."

The Budget Report was approved by the Board.
Next on the agenda was the Budget Calendar FY 2014-2015, presented by Fiscal Services director David Fallaw.

"In January and February, I will spend time hearing from principals and directors about what they would like to add to the budget," he said. "I am proposing a question and answer session and a time to discuss what we're hearing from the State on March 25 at 10 a.m. On April 22 is the Budget Workshop. First reading is May 13 and second reading is June 2."

Fallaw also presented for information the 502 Project Update. Board member Brad Covar asked that an update on technology be added to the discussion. Fallaw stated that in the beginning it was agreed that $1 million would be dedicated o technology in the $5 million 502 Project. So far, he said, $615,000 has been spent on technology.

"We're in the last school pulling wires," Courtney commented. "We have completely put these schools on WIFI. Johnston Elementary will be finished in January. When finished with the technology portion, we will have spent close to a million dollars. In all the schools, it involved pulling old wires and putting new wires in place. It involved starting over with infrastructure for new technology. It is going well in the schools that are finished, There is no dead space at Parker."

Covar asked if it involved any computers or just infrastructure.

Courtney reported that with the exception of one computer presentation in the conference room of the Field House, no computers have been purchased.

"Everything has been accounted for at this point," he said. "If there is any money left when finished, we will access what is needed at that point."

Anderson reminded everyone that at the time the project began, the School District had last updated their technology in 1991.

"Things had been added here and there, but a lot was incompatible and outdated," he said. "Now everything is identifiable. We received some free work with the football field. The cable under some roads into the buildings is now state-of-the-art."

Under Human Resources, Council approved Policy GDFA, Support Staff Hiring (Paraprofessionals) on second reading.

Anderson then introduced Dotterer  to Council and attendees. "I asked him to speak tonight, so that when the time comes for you all to vote, you will have this information," he said.

Dotterer gave a long report on the virtues of TAP, a system of comprehensive reform designed around increasing student achievement through teacher advocacy. "We are now in year four of implementation," he said. "TAP used to stand for Teacher Advancement Program. It is now a model of building teacher strength. When you look at TAP schools, you see over-achieving compared to other schools like ours."

He claimed that TAP schools over-achieve by 89 percent. He talked about how that achievement is measured. He said the TAP Program consists of four components: it allows teachers to take on more responsibility and leadership and to stay in the classroom; it is ongoing applied professional development; It involves instructional accountability in light of the fact that the state evaluation system is changing; and performance--one is rewarded for doing good. The reward averages $2,000 per teacher, he said.

He said that he is responsible for setting the standard which is based on 30 percent teacher evaluation; 30 percent individual student achievement; and 30 percent overall school growth.

The second aspect he talked about was grants. "We currently are funding four schools through grants," he said. "There is the TIF-3 (TIF stands for teacher incentive fund). We have another year and a half with this grant. The TIF-4 is out now. The grant for TIF-5 is coming in the spring."

Upon questioning, he stated that the District will have received, with grants, $3.8 million over the five-year period and will have put in $700,000 to $800,000.

Covar stated that originally they were told there would be no cost to the District, but that was another story. He talked about how District report cards from the State are not in keeping with the improvement that Dotterer is claiming.

Fallaw was asked what was in the budget this year for the program and he stated, "$230,000, but it will be less. It was less last year than what was allotted."

There was a lot of discussion among Board members and some had grave concerns, especially from the financial aspect. Thee were a number of teachers present and some testified as to their benefit from the program and how it has helped them --not so much from the financial aspect, but motivation-wise and accountability-wise. Covar said, "We will take everything into account, but in the end, we have to pay the bills."

In the last item mentioned, Anderson informed everyone that the Scoreboard Contest has begun and students as well as anyone who wants to participate are encouraged to do so.
"As you all know, the back of the scoreboard faces Highway 23, and we are asking participants to draw or show what would make an attractive back to the scoreboard," he said. "We think it is a good way to get students involved who do not participate in sports or band or whatever."

Following executive session, the Board voted to accept the contract from Log Creek Timber Company in harvesting the FFA timber.


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