Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee presented her 2015 budget priorities to the board of education at Tuesday evening’s regular meeting. The proposed budget included the reduction or elimination of several staff positions and programs as well as the upgrade and inception of new programs and job posts.
Staff positions proposed for elimination included the already-vacant deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning and executive director of operations positions. The savings from all proposed staff cuts totaled $664,265.27.
Regarding program cuts, Lee said that although the district was contracted with Ombudsman for 170 seats, that number has been reduced to 100 for a total savings of $332,580. She also recommended eliminating the STAR program, and is developing an alternative plan that includes the inception of full- and part-time behavioral-specialist positions.
“While we buy into many of the tenets of the STAR program, again, we are trying to redirect our focus to more positive interventions for our young people,” Lee said.
Other staff changes include the creation of a director of technology innovations position, to be filled by a current instructional-technology specialist who will be upgraded to the role of director.
Lee spoke passionately about the need to reinstate a middle-school athletics program, which also was mentioned by Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Jason Rogers as a priority identified by the Citizens Budget Committee.
“Many times, students will stay in school for football if they won’t for academics,” Lee said. “Sometimes, a coach need only walk by a classroom and look in, and that would correct the behavior or encourage them to keep up with their grades.
“Athletics builds character, responsibility and helps young people understand the need to submit to authority, which is very important as they continue to develop into adulthood,” Lee continued.
Lee’s proposed budget cuts totaled $1,246,123.27, and her proposed expenditures came to $1,234,504.15 for a total net savings to the district of $11,619.12.
“We’re going to be continuously looking at how we can make a good thing better and ultimately be best in our state,” Lee said.
‘Blueprint for Progress’
Executive Director of Special Programs Sonja Duncan delivered a presentation detailing the results of the May 8-9 Strategic Planning Community Summit. The goal of the summit was to articulate what the district plans to do, how it plans to do it and how it will measure progress, according to Duncan.
The five-year plan is “not a plan that’s going to be written, put on the shelf, then dusted off five years later when it’s time to do another one,” Duncan said. “It’s going to be a continuous plan, something we work on for improvement of our district and, inevitably, our community.”
Five action teams were formed at the summit, one for each goal: increasing student learning, achievement, and college and career readiness; providing a safe and supportive learning environment; recruiting and retaining highly qualified and effective staff; increasing stakeholders’ involvement; and ensuring efficiency and effectiveness of district operations and administrative services.
The teams consisted of community members, parents and school staff members, to ensure a variety of perspectives and insight.
Duncan said that the objective of the summit was to begin the development of a plan that will be brought before the board in August, with hopes of approval by September for a January 2015 rollout.
Once the plan officially is adopted, it will be referred to as the “Blueprint for Progress.”
• The board approved two out-of-state travel requests. Bradwell Institute’s soccer team will travel to Jacksonville, Florida, to attend the USA vs. Nigeria men’s national soccer game. Additionally, Transportation Director Chad McCaskill will visit the Rush Truck Center in Tulsa, Okla. to become more familiar with new emissions guidelines. The trip will be of no expense to the district, as it is being funded by the Rush Truck Center.
• The local five-year facilities plan was recently approved by architects and engineers, and now will be sent to the state board of education for review. In order to be eligible for state funding, the school board must adopt a five-year plan; however, the plan is not set in stone and will be amendable as needed.
• Three parcels of land have been appropriated for use by the Department of Transportation in the widening project on Airport Road. The Georgia Power easement plan was approved, which will allow power lines to be installed on the land.