The public got a chance to learn about the Liberty County School System during a community forum Thursday at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.
Liberty County School System Interim Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry said the goals of the LCSS are to increase student learning, provide a safe and supportive environment, recruit quality staff, increase stakeholder involvement and ensure efficiency and effectiveness of district operations and administrative services.
He said it was imperative that stakeholders, especially parents, take an active role in ensuring children get the adequate education they need.
“We need your help. We need you to be our partner. Be our partner in educatimg our children,” LCSS Board Chair Lily Baker added as she addressed the audience.
Susan Avant, the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, talked about special programs offered by the district which includes special education, gifted and talented education, dual enrollment which allows students to earn college credits while attending high school, the college and career academy and the Pre-K Center. She added that the LCSS charter initiative allows middle school students to earn high school credits. The LCSS also has flexible scheduling and offers fine arts opportunities.
Executive Director of Student
Services Dr. Kathy Moody addressed students’ behavior.
She said the LCSS uses a systematic and data-driven method for identifying, defining and resolving students’ behavior and speech and language difficulties using instructional programs and interventions.
These programs are used to help students who are falling behind academically, whether due to behavior or learning disabilities, and implements a step by step approach on getting the students back on track.
Moody emphasized the importance of parents being involved in assessing the changing behavior of their children and addressing them immediately if it causes a drop in academic performance.
She said parents, educators and friends are the main support system during adolescent years and having open channels of communication is often necessary to intervene during difficult periods.
Perry said they have seen an increase in mental health issues among students. He said he would welcome outside assistance in providing the right care for students in need of help.
Executive Director of Operations Jason Rogers presented information about buses which prompted questions from the audience about seat belts.
The seatbelt issue became a topic of discussion after the Dec. 5, bus crash that killed 5-year-old Cambria Shuman.
Dr. Perry said they have discussed the matter.
“The research shows both pros and cons,” he said. “But I am sure that is a conversation we will continue to have as we look to purchase more buses.”
Rogers said there are 160 buses transporting around 10,000 students daily. He said there are buses with wheelchair lifts and a few with air conditioning. He said in addition to normal daily routes the buses take kids to special classes on weekends and sporting events. He added they have a memorandum of understanding with the county where buses are used during evacuations during severe weather.
LCSS Interim Director of Finance Janine Graham explained how schools are funded. The federal government provides 21 percent of the funds, the state provides 56 percent and 23 percent comes from local government with property taxes being the primary source.
Graham said there have been funding cuts the past few years at the state level which meant the county had to pick up some expenses. She said Liberty County pays over 80 percent of the overall cost of transporting students. She added local districts must provide educators with 12.5 sick days per year but the state only pays $150 per employee per year. The remainder is funded by the school district.
Most athletic and extracurricular activities are also funded at the district level. Graham said they are currently seeking public input for the next school budget for 2018-19.