Resident Lonnie Fayson presented a petition with 150 signatures Tuesday evening to the Liberty County Board of Education.
Those who signed the petition are seeking to have the school board meetings videotaped, Fayson told the BoE.
The board voted 5-2 last month against videotaping meetings.
Fayson spoke during the audience participation segment of the meeting, which is an opportunity for people to ask questions, make statements or share concerns with the board. Board members typically do not respond. Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee usually contacts the speakers privately after the meeting. Lee was not present Tuesday.
Fayson, who is also a co-host of “The Educational Hotline” on WGML-AM 990, said he spoke with his district representative, Dr. Yvette Keel, about wanting to have the meetings recorded.
“She stated to me that there was some internal issues going on; that was the reason why the board voted it down. Since then, I’ve gone to at least 150 people in that district and got them to sign a petition to get those meetings recorded, as well as putting it online, on social media,” he said. “I know the superintendent has a ‘Superintendent’s Corner,’ and if there’s no additional costs, I don’t see why those board meetings can’t be put online so that people such as myself who can’t make it to every meeting … they can still see what’s going on at the meetings. That’s basically my request.”
After the meeting, Fayson said that including the 150 people who signed the petition, he received a lot of support on social media.
Having board meetings videotaped has been a heavily discussed topic recently within the community. Board Chairwoman Lily Baker addressed this with a statement she read before the meeting started.
“As a board, we will continue to work on our communication with each other and the community,” Baker said. “The board and the superintendent are committed first and foremost to providing the best educational opportunities for all of our students in Liberty County. Our goal is — and will always be — we will commit this meeting today and future meetings to student achievement. Why? Because it is our No. 1 priority.”
School calendar approved
The 2016-17 school calendar was approved. Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Susan Avant said the proposed calendar is on the school district’s website, where people were able to review it and provide feedback. Suggestions included not making any changes, a later start date, fewer holidays, fewer days for spring break and a later ending date.
Board member Marcus Scott IV asked who was surveyed. Avant answered that staff, parents and anyone who went on the website were able to provide feedback. She said her department responded to everyone who provided feedback.
The first day of school for students in 2016-17 will be Aug. 1, and the last day will be May 26, 2017. Teachers start the school year July
26 with four teacher workdays and end it June 1, 2017, with three workdays after Memorial Day. Spring break will be later next year — April 14-21, 2017, compared to March 25 through April 4 this year — but that is because Easter Sunday is March 27 this year and April 16 in 2017.
Otherwise, the 2016-17 school calendar is similar to this year’s.
In other business, the board approved the closeout cost of painting the exterior of the LCSS Transportation Complex on Airport Road. The project was completed under budget for $15,000.
The board received information to review about student attendance policy changes from the Georgia Department of Education.
The board heard department updates that focused on what was accomplished within the first school semester and a forecast for the second semester.
Avant highlighted some initiatives that included the opening of Horizons Learning Center, preparation for AdvancED, a mentoring program for new teachers and teachers who need additional support, and the implementation and training of school governance teams now that Liberty County is a charter school system. Some things coming up this semester include preparation for the Georgia Milestone Assessment System, expanding the arts program and changes to the kindergarten- through eighth-grade gifted program.
Jason Rogers, the district’s chief operations officer, said Breakfast in the Classroom has been successful and that student participation has increased. The American Association of School Administrators, which granted the school system money for the program, plans an on-site visit Friday.
Rogers added that construction projects have been completed under budget. An in-house grounds crew is being established with all the positions filled except for one, Rogers said.
For the spring semester there will be a focus on increasing lunch participation. There will be focus groups discussing school lunches, taste testing and more input gathered from cafeteria managers. Rogers said he will analyze submitted work orders and streamline requests for legal services.
Updates from the human resources department, presented by Barbara Gary, the assistant director of human resources, included the department creating a procedure notebook, dividing duties among staff members, creating a one-stop-shop source for information, implementing a recruiting plan, a contract-renewal process that will begin next month and an ongoing certification renewal process.
Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese talked about having submitted a balanced fiscal 2016 budget to the Georgia Department of Education, along with financial reports. He also discussed updating pay schedules, preparing past fiscal-year finances for auditors and purchasing 10 new school buses. A salary study will be done this spring, Reese said. The study will list positions, their salaries and determine the averages. Reese said that the Liberty County School System salaries will be compared to other nearby counties such as Bulloch, Effingham, Bryan, Camden and Chatham counties. The fiscal 2017 budget will also be presented this spring.
From the technology and media services department, the board heard about the success of Day One, community involvement at the fall community forum and Holiday Extravaganza, and changes to the iPad initiative.
Chief Information Officer Dr. Patti Crane said that this semester, iDashboard will be implemented. This is a data dashboard that will provide information about student performance and district events to parents and community members.
WLCS, a video-streaming channel will launch its first phase. Phase 1 involves the district and each school having an online streaming media presence. In Phase 2, teachers and students will have their own presence on the channel, which will begin in the summer. Crane said there will be another community forum in the spring, students are preparing for the LCSS Media Festival and that digital content will continue to be integrated into student curriculum.
Frank Long Elementary student Callie White was recognized for winning first place in the Vaden Nissan of Hinesville art contest.
Button Gwinnett Elementary and Joseph Martin Elementary schools were honored for being on the Highest-Progress School list for Title I Reward Schools.
Vicky Torres-Perez, LCSS payroll manager, was given the Smile Award for dedication to the district and her job.
Crystal Bell, LCSS school social worker was recognized for being featured in the Coastal Courier’s Life in Liberty section.