County School Board Debating Summer Student Trips Overseas; Parents Upset By Half Day Of School For Teacher Planning

Monday, November 18, 2019

County School officials are discussing whether it is necessary for the School Board to approve summer overseas student trips.

Board member Rhonda Thurman said such trips are outside the school calendar and the board would unnecessarily be assuming liability by giving approval. "That's up to the parents," she said.

Legal counsel noted that the trips were first discussed at the schools, leading some students to sign up for trips that include one to Spain.

Board member Joe Smith said his concern was that all students could not afford to go on such a trip. On school field trips during the time covered by the school calendar, all students must be included, it was stated.

Several board members said they heard numerous complaints from parents when the schools had a half day last Wednesday, with the rest of the day devoted to teacher planning.

Ms. Thurman said numerous working parents were upset about the unexpected need to come up with afternoon day care.

Tiffanie Robinson, another board member, said she got many similar complaints.

Supt. Bryan Johnson said the afternoon was scheduled after teachers urged the need for more planning time. He said in the future officials will be more cognizant of the effect on parents. He noted he had to go to Subway to buy a foot long for his second grade son and then pay for day care.

Ms. Thurman said, "We need to consider the needs of the parents rather than all the time just doing what the teacher union wants."

She also said school should be out all week for Thanksgiving, instead of going Monday and Tuesday and then taking off. "That's what the private schools do," she said.

Chairman Joe Wingate retorted, "I could care less what the private schools do." He said those schools take the full week to allow time for boarding students to get home.

Ms. Thurman said she "did not appreciate the snide remark" and said officials do need to heed what is going on with private schools and home schools, saying those are getting 30 percent of local school-age children. 

Brent Goldberg, county school finance director, said a new software system for finance and personnel will be a major improvement. He said the current system, that is 15 years old, "takes 14 hours to run payroll after you push a button. The new system will take 20 minutes." He said under the current system a number of functions have to be performed manually.

He said the new setup, which will cost $1,742,446 to purchase with annual maintenance of $185,000, will take 13 months to be ready to go. He said there is an extensive training period.

Supt. Johnson said the new position of chief security officer should be filled soon. He said staff is reviewing 6-7 good candidates.

Chairman Wingate said he has not gotten an invitation to a planned joint meeting on Dec. 9 of the County Commission and School Board.

He was told that the meeting was announced by County Mayor Jim Coppinger and reported in the news media. And it was also on Facebook.

Chairman Wingate said, "A report in the news media and Facebook is not going to get me there."


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