The Liberty County Board of Education extended Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry’s contract until 2025 during the Tuesday, July 12, regular board meeting.
According to the contract, Perry will receive a salary of $217,821.75 per year, and he is entitled to receive the same annual salary percentage increase approved by the board for all certified employees of the district.
Chief Operations Officer Arnold Jackson then explained that multiple violations were discovered at Waldo Pafford Elementary, which is currently undergoing renovations. He said the state fire marshal conducted a fire and life safety inspection at the school and found five code violations above the finished ceiling. Three of these code violations are rated wall penetrations that were not sealed during the original construction.
As a result, a change order in the amount of $58,014.58 was necessary to repair issues discovered during the renovation. Jackson recommended the award go to John Lavender and Associates, the contractors who won the bid for the renovations at the school. Marcus Scott IV asked why the original contractor, responsible for the errors, shouldn’t be called and required to fix the problems, but Perry explained that the school was originally built in 1998. He added that the fire marshal will not allow renovations to continue until those violations are fixed, and all needs to be completed before the start of the new school year. The board approved the recommendation.
Jackson also gave the board an update on the five current renovation projects. Interior renovations are underway at the Pre-K Center and Waldo Pafford and Taylors Creek Elementary schools. The LCSS is also upgrading the HVAC systems at Joseph Martin and Liberty Elementary schools and replacing the sports scoreboards at Olvey and Freedom fields.
Jackson said the sports signage projects are 95% complete, and work at the Pre-K Center is 80% complete. It is 75% complete at both Waldo Pafford and Taylors Creek, but he assured the board that all projects will be done before the new school year begins. The total cost for all projects is $12.5 million, funded by the CARES Act and ESPLOST.
The LCSS has purchased more than 45 buses in the last five years, and all buses will be air conditioned before school starts in August. Additionally, the LCSS plans to purchase six new Blue Bird buses, air-conditioned and with 78-seat capacity, and two special needs buses from Yancey Bus Sales. The cost is roughly $1.15 million, funded by ESPLOST and the Georgia Department of Education.
The LCSS is also considering upgrades for the school bus security cameras to keep up with current technology. The onetime upgrade would cost $234,859.19.
To fill a vacancy in the Department of Exceptional Learning, the LCSS is opening a request for qualifications for one contracted school psychologist position.
LCSS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Zheadric Barbra said there was a lot of discussion about parents’ right at the 2022 session of the Georgia General Assembly, as lawmakers moved to increase parents’ oversight of what their children are being taught in the classroom and to ensure that parents are informed of their rights. As a result, the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education are required to develop model policies and guidance to assist local boards of education as they adopt policies to comply with several new mandates.
The four new policies shared with the board have been reviewed by legal counsel and include 1) unstructured break time, 2) a resolution process for complaints regarding divisive concepts, 3) a resolution policy for complaints regarding material harmful to minors, and 4) parents’ bill of rights.
Barbra explained each as follows:
• Unstructured break time will allow children in kindergarten through eighth grade to receive break time, and this right may not be revoked as a means of discipline.
• The complaint resolution process for divisive concepts is meant to ensure teachers present information in a way that doesn’t divide students due to racism.
• The complaint resolution policy regarding material harmful to minors will allow parents to remove certain content they deem harmful to their children.
• The parents’ bill of rights states that parents must be informed about their child’s curriculum and that they have the right to have their children opt out of certain educational subjects or topics.
Scott said he plans to send his recommendations about the divisive concepts policy, saying there are a lot of concerns, especially from history teachers.
“They are being held accountable for things they may say,” he said.
Perry said these policies are now required state law. The board will take action on the policies in 30 days.
The board then heard about a new joint project at Midway Middle School and Liberty College and Career Academy RISE (Reinforcing Innovative Skills in Engineering), a pilot program that allows eighth graders to earn high school credits at LCCA. Students in the program will spend half the day taking an engineering course at LCCA and the remainder of the day in their regular classes.
The pilot program will have open slots for 40 students. Parents will be required to complete an application, and the students’ previous attendance, behavioral and academic records will determine eligibility.