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Growth partnership head addresses Long BoE
0927 Jeff Ricketson
Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership Director Jeff Ricketson - photo by Courier file photo
At its September meeting, the Long County Board of Education heard a presentation by Jeff Ricketson, the project director for the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership.
Ricketson gave an overview of the partnership, which is composed of Liberty, Long, Tattnall and McIntosh counties. It was established in 2007 to determine the impact bringing a fifth brigade to Fort Stewart would have on the region.
Ricketson said that despite the announcement in June that the brigade is not coming to the area, growth will continue. An estimated 860 more soldiers are slated to arrive on Fort Stewart.  
Ricketson said the partnership is now working to determine the negative impact the brigade’s cancellation will have on the region.
The director said $75 million has been requested in the federal budget to offset money already spent preparing for the fifth brigade’s arrival. Both the public and private sectors in the four counties might receive some assistance.
Regarding school system issues, a few BoE members voiced concern over a report stating that there had been 67 out-of-school suspension days at Walker Middle School through Sept. 14.  
WMS Principal Dr. Vicky Wells said she thought the number was “pretty good” considering the number of students at the school. Wells added she is up for suggestions from the board on how to lower that number.  After a brief discussion, board members decided to gather more information on the issue, especially regarding the percentage of the parents who choose to put their kids in out-of-school suspension rather than in in-school suspension.    
Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters said Walker Middle School has seen the greatest growth from last year with an increase of 80 students.  Waters said the school system as a whole increased by 129 students.    
In other business the board:
• Approved a $1 hourly increase in pay for special education paraprofessionals who assist students with extensive toilet care.
• Heard a report from Waters about the cafeteria at Smiley Elementary School, which is in phase one and could be finished by Christmas break.
• Discussed the possibility of establishing an elementary Spanish class.
• Rescheduled the October meeting from Oct. 12 to Oct. 5 because Oct. 12 is a scheduled furlough day for employees.
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