The Liberty County Board of Education on Tuesday voted to enact a district-wide hiring freeze for all “non-essential positions,” as stated by Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee.
Lee recommended the freeze as a means to “avoid any unnecessary and non-essential spending between now and the end of the fiscal year,” which runs through June 30.
Lee said she would make exceptions for “essential positions such as teaching staff … paraprofessionals, or any of those who work closely with our students,” stating that there are some “very key positions” in core-content areas that have not been filled.
“Certainly, if those teachers become available, I will be bringing those recommendations to the board with explanations,” she said, noting areas such as math, science and special needs as those she would make exceptions for.
Board member Marcus Scott asked Lee for an example of a position that would be affected by the freeze.
Lee responded that a science coordinator position, which has been open all year, will be able to be funded “another way” in the FY16 budget which will not affect the district’s general fund. She also said several coaching and custodial positions would be placed on hold under the freeze.
“I would hate to hire someone now and then not be able to renew them four or five months from now,” she said.
The motion to enact the freeze passed 6-1, with Scott opposed.
The board unanimously approved an audio/visual technology upgrade for all middle- and high-school classrooms.
According to the executive summary, which was submitted by LCSS Chief Information Officer Dr. Patti Crane, AV equipment in middle and high schools needs to be wall-mounted for “safety purposes and ease of use.”
Crane said that the AV committee’s recommendation was for an all-in-one, LCD, 70-inch, interactive flat-panel to replace the SMART Board/LCD projector combos in all 329 middle- and high-school classrooms.
Crane said the new LCD flat-panels would require less maintenance than the SMART Boards and projectors they would replace. She said the new monitors have fewer pieces and do not require replacement bulbs, which she said are “quite expensive.”
The new monitors also have built-in speakers, which would eliminate the need for speakers in classroom ceilings.
Board member Marcia Anderson asked about the turnaround time for installation of the new equipment. Crane said that the orders should arrive by early February, and installations could be done over weekends and in the evenings, so as not to interrupt class time.
According to the executive summary, the total cost of the upgrade would be $1,447,271. Funding would be provided in part by a Department of Defense grant, which would cover $616,000, while the remaining $831,271 would be provided from E-SPLOST funds.
At the start of the meeting, Lee delivered her monthly report to the board, giving brief updates on the district’s progress in terms of its five stated goals.
Lee mentioned that security upgrades have been completed at Snelson-Golden and Lewis Frasier middle schools and said that there were just a “few more nails to nail” at Midway Middle before the focus would turn to the district’s elementary schools. New security features include keyless access, she said.
Lee also said that the central office is making initial preparations for the FY16 budget. She said that letters of intent have been sent out to teachers, and she expects to receive them back by Jan. 16. The letters will help staff in making renewal and reassignment decisions.
The superintendent reminded the board that her staff has conducted salary analyses throughout the past school year and said that she is getting ready to bring new pre-K and assistant principal pay scales to the board “in hopes of making certain that our teachers remain some of the highest-paid in First District RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency).”
Board of Education Vice-Chair election
Board members also unanimously elected District 2 representative Carolyn Smith Carter to serve as the board’s vice chairwoman for the next two years.