The Board of Education has decided to take a closer look at the charter buses hired for student travel.
The issue arose after Janine Graham, the district’s assistant finance director, presented out-of-state travel requests to the school board at its Jan. 10 meeting.
The requests were for fourth and fifth grade classes at Button Gwinnett Elementary to visit historical attractions in Washington, D.C., in June; the Bradwell Institute senior class trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, in April and the gifted and talented trip for fifth grade students in the district to see different educational attractions in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in March.
Board member Carol Guyett asked if there was a process for approving charter services.
"I think there needs to be some way to ensure that they are carrying the proper insurance and the drivers have the proper certification," Guyett said. "It’s not been a big issue, but it seems like we’re relying more and more on some of the charter buses, so I just want to cross our T’s and dot our I’s."
Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee agreed.
"What I would like to do is get a list that we vet all at one time and say this is the pool from which you can choose and even prior to the trip taking place we require that company to submit their most recent paid receipt for insurances," Lee said, "and as they bring on new staff that we run them through our vetting process, that we do the background check. I think it’s a great recommendation."
The board approved, 6-1, to change banks from Heritage Bank to Ameris Bank.
Both banks met with the BoE in December, at a special called meeting.
Lee said she reviewed of their information, discussed the matter with Roger Reese, chief operations officer, and recommended the transition to Ameris.
Board member Marcus Scott IV opposed the move.
"I think that we’re moving too fast as far as moving banks, making that decision that quick, especially I have some finance budget concerns," he said. "With that being said, and of course, whether it’s real or perceived conflict of interest, there’s that also. Those are my concerns."
Chief Academic Officer Patti Crane gave an update on teaching personalized learning courses to instructors.
The first cohort, which included teachers and staff from the middle schools and Horizons Learning Center, started in August. Staff members took courses on topics that included blended learning, classroom management, how to use student data for teaching, an overview of personalized learning and incorporating digital content.
Crane said teachers are incorporating what they are learning into the classroom.
Cohort 2, elementary, high school and the Liberty College and Career Academy staff, started in December and are taking the same courses, which are tailored for the different grade levels.
Crane emphasized that the personalized learning training is a process. She said teachers "are starting to get it" and feeling "freer" in insturction.
Board member Verdell Jones asked, "Do you feel that personalized learning lends more to empowering teachers to just teach?"
"I think it empowers them to be able to know every student and therefore teach every student with exactly what they need based on the data and being able to monitor and connect with those students," Crane answered. "Yes. It is an evolution and it allows them to be more of a facilitator. It is a process."
Jones shared a story of going on a school visit years ago and a teacher giving her a tour of her classroom which was divided into different learning areas. The teacher showed Jones how she teaches a problem different ways for students. Jones said she realized personalized learning allows "freedom and flexibility to look at that individual student. It just says that we all learn differently."
Lee presented the board with a draft of how personalized learning will be implemented in the district for the 2017-2018 school year. She said there may be bumps along the way in implementation but believes the district is on the right path.
The board approved renaming the former Jordye Bacon Elementary School campus to Jordye Bacon Educational Complex.
Jordye Bacon closed in 2013, with staff and students reassigned to other schools. Since its closing the campus has been utilized for Coastal Academy and Horizons Learning Center.
Jason Rogers, executive director for maintenance and operations, said the campus has been recorded at the Department of Education as Jordye Bacon Auxiliary Campus.
At a previous board meeting on Dec. 14 when the name change was first presented, board member Carolyn Smith Carter said she was the assistant principal there at the time of the school closing.
Carter said the superintendent at the time promised the Jordye Bacon family to always retain the name there even if a new elementary school was built.
"I remember specifically that was the promise to the family and I witnessed that promise and I don’t think we should go back on that promise," Carter said.
In other business, Rogers gave an update on an internal audit from July 2016 to date.
He also gave board members a three-year comparison of the district’s expenditures in the general fund. He said the figures were very comparable and it’s a good sign in regards to spending.
Student enrollment in December was 9,959 and Verdell Jones was selected as the board’s new vice chair. Jones accepted the position which she will serve for two years.