With Liberty County schools back in session, the board of education saw a resurgence in the audience participation portion of its meeting on Tuesday.
Three parents addressed their concerns Tuesday night before the board discussed its agenda, which included hearing updates on the new Liberty County High School entryway and a proposed purchase of dirt from the county.
Parents Yvonne and Kent Smith spoke to the board about a litany of items. Their greatest concern, they said, was the lack of SAT and ACT testing in the county. They frequently had to drive their daughter, a recent graduate, to either Jesup or Richmond Hill to take the tests.
“Why should we have to go to another county to take these SATs and ACTs?” Yvonne Smith asked. “I don’t understand that.”
The decision to offer testing is not one the board can make on its own, according to Deputy Superintendent Cheryl Conley. Schools that wish to offer testing must apply with the College Board, which ultimately makes the decision.
In recent years, Liberty County administrators have been told that their facilities are too close to pre-existing testing locations, Conley said after the meeting.
Citing the record-breaking heat, the Smiths also requested that children be able to wait indoors for their parents to pick them up after dismissal. They raised concerns about the number of speeding vehicles within school zones and asked the board to synchronize the school holidays with military holidays so that parents and children may have more time together.
The Smiths will have a chance to meet with Superintendent Judy Scherer today to address their concerns, Scherer said in an interview after the meeting.
Another mother, Bridget Tangorre-Randash, asked the board to clarify its uniform policy after her kindergarten daughter was told her outfit did not meet uniform requirements.
“For the past two years, my one daughter in elementary school has been able to wear a uniform skirt that has a gather — or what is considered a ruffle — on the skirt,” she said, holding up examples of an acceptable skirt and two in question. “My kindergarten daughter, who used the same clothing — we’re trying to pinch pennies in this economic time — was told that she no longer could wear them.”
Tangorre-Randash explained that she spoke with her daughter’s principal, and when dissatisfied with the answer, she tried to contact school administrators. In response, a social worker called and told her that she could borrow uniforms until she could afford to purchase them, a statement that she took as insulting.
After the meeting, Tangorre-Randash said she simply wanted a clear, concise policy that was consistently enforced and she wanted someone to explain why the skirt was no longer acceptable.
On Wednesday, Scherer said the skirt issue was a matter of miscommunication. School representatives meant that the girl’s ruffled blouses were not acceptable, but the skirts were fine.
“They told me that it was completely a misunderstanding … and that the skirts are all OK to wear,” Tangorre-Randash said.
She said that addressing the board with multiple administrators was what helped clear the air, and she was impressed to get a response to her questions the next morning.
Both sets of parents heard back from administrators on Wednesday, a policy that is important to uphold, Scherer said.
“It’s important to answer parents’ questions and resolve the issues — I try to resolve them before they get to the board meeting,” she said.
Scherer encourages parents with concerns to speak first with their child’s teacher, then principal and then to the administration.
The board also approved plans for a second entryway to Liberty County High School from Highway 84, as presented by Matthew Barrow of PC Simonton & Associates.
The 26-foot-wide road should ease traffic congestion, especially during on-campus events like graduation and football and basketball games, Scherer said. The board hopes the project will be complete in time for graduation next spring.
To date, the project does not have a budget, according to Jason Rogers, assistant superintendent for administrative services. After requesting project bids, the board will have a better idea about the project’s cost and will have the leeway to make adjustments, he added.
The board also discussed a proposed purchase of dirt from the county to use at its Career Academy site. The Liberty County Board of Commissioners approved the deal in its last meeting, but revisions to the contract have stalled progress in the transaction.
“We’re having difficulty ironing out mutually agreeable language,” Scherer said after the BoE meeting. Citing ongoing negotiations, she declined further comment.
County Administrator Joey Brown said county officials will meet next week to address the requested changes.
If they cannot come to an agreement, the school board will contract the dirt purchase through another provider, Scherer said.