Board Business Briefs: School Board Hears Updates on COVID-19, State Funding
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer is administered the oath of office to serve another four-year term by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood, as her husband, Randy, looks on.
The Cherokee County School Board at its meeting Thursday night heard updates on State education funding and the state of public health.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and staff updated the School Board on COVID-19’s impact on staffing, as well as on hospital capacity and the community’s health as a whole. As at least 241 staff absences were anticipated for Tuesday, along with a similar impact on substitute availability, Dr. Hightower recommended continued closure of in-person school through Jan. 25 and heard no objections from the School Board.
“As we’re working hard to be healthy, we still have some challenges ahead of us,” Dr. Hightower said.
During the presentation, he and his staff also shared with the School Board the proactive work underway to gain access and authorization from the State for CCSD to vaccinate teachers and staff as soon as possible, and plans to temporarily increase pay for substitute teachers to further encourage more of the 700 substitutes in CCSD’s pool to sign up for jobs.
Chief of Staff Mike McGowan outlined to the School Board the potential fiscal impact of announcements made by Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday morning during his annual “State of the State” address.
These announcements include a partial restoration of the educational funding cuts made in the spring to brace for COVID-19’s hit to State revenues, which totaled a $23.3 Million cut for CCSD alone; as well as a $1,000 bonus, funded by federal CARES Act monies, to be awarded to all teachers and school-level staff, including bus drivers, school nurses, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff and more. That bonus, which still must be approved next month by the State Board of Education, could be paid out to CCSD employees as soon as March.
Mr. McGowan also detailed a House bill that failed last year but is being reintroduced by Rep. Wes Cantrell, a local private school founder, to seek taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools like his own. The legislation would ultimately shift taxpayer dollars from public schools for purposes of reducing private school tuition costs with initial eligibility/fiscal limitations that easily could be expanded once passed into law.
“When we are being asked to suffer through austerity reductions, any additional monies should be applied to reduce those cuts, as opposed to funding private school vouchers,” Mr. McGowan said.
The School Board also:
• Recognized School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and Board members Kelly Poole and Patsy Jordan upon being sworn in for another four-year term by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood;
• Ms. Jordan, for the meeting Inspiration, shared the story of Sixes ES paraprofessional Bonnie Schroeder, who in September received a call at work that her husband had been in a terrible accident. In the hours to follow, her life would be forever changed, and, through this tragedy, she would befriend an “angel” in the #CCSDfam – Woodstock HS teacher Liz Smith. Read the inspiring story here.
• Ms. Poole thanked CCSD’s teachers and support staff for their work to successfully make the transition to online learning for all students;
• Elected School Board member Rick Steiner to serve as Vice Chair for 2021;
• Dr. Hightower announced plans to begin CCSD’s reaccreditation process, an effort that occurs every five years;
• Adopted a resolution to phase out use of the current Cherokee High School facility, which is another step needed toward the potential plan to build a replacement Cherokee HS campus neighboring Teasley Middle School. The School Board still would need to vote to add the project to its five-year construction plan, and voters would need to approve the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) renewal in November;
• Recognized the River Ridge HS varsity football team, led by Head Coach Mike Collins, as Georgia’s Region 7 6-A Champions;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved the monthly update on Capital Outlay Projects; and,
• Approved the monthly personnel report.
The next School Board meeting is Feb. 11, 2021.
School Board member Patsy Jordan is sworn into office for another four years by Judge Wood as her sister, Shelley, looks on.
School Board member Kelly Poole is sworn into office for another four years by Judge Wood as her husband, Jim, looks on.