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ECMS shines for BOE

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Jakaiya Owens talks about her robot. In back are board members Kevin Hoomes, left, and Cindy Jackson, right.

The setting for the February 21 Escambia County Board of Education meeting provided an opportunity for the administration, faculty and students of Escambia County Middle School to shine – and shine they did.
Students Naasia Reynolds and Janiyah McCants welcomed the board from the school’s new broadcast studio.
The meeting was held in the ECMS collaboration lab, with a robotics demonstration by seventh-grader Jakaiya Owens. Not only did she build the robot, she programmed it to perform a certain function.
ECMS Principal Debbie Bolden gave the Board a report on the middle school since she became principal two and a half years ago.
In her first year, her first goal: Parents and students had to know it was a new day. She and her staff began making the school nice and welcoming. They laid out their goals and expectations – for students and teachers.
“We set about changing the mindset here – all children can succeed and achieve at a high level,” Bolden said.
She made sure parents and teachers understood if a student doesn’t make the grade, the student doesn’t pass.
In Bolden’s second year, the fourth grade from Rachel Patterson Elementary was moved to ECMS.
“That’s the best thing that ever happened here,” she said. “Teachers enjoy the fourth grade so much, they’re asking me to ask Mr. Knott if we can bring the third grade.”
For all students, the goal is academic success. In the second year, more policies were put into place to help them. Schedules were changed to make students successful. Advanced classes were put in place. And Bolden and her staff created “double dipping” – if a student is having a hard time in a subject, he may attend that class more than once a day. A math consultant was hired to work with math teachers. Professional development for teachers was ramped up. Scores on state testing improved. And the collaboration lab was approved.
In year three, Bolden increased hands-on instruction, added electives for all students, opened the collaboration lab, began broadcasting, and set up dedicated computer labs for seventh and eighth grades.
(For more on Bolden’s presentation, see “We are ECMS” on page 4A of this edition.)
In his remarks, Superintendent John Knott congratulated Assistant Superintendent Beth Drew on being named the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year at the Chamber’s annual meeting February 8.
“She has worked very hard in our school system for 37 years,” Knott said. “She’s very deserving.”
The board observed a memorial moment for James Van Pelt, Beth Drew’s father who passed away February 17.
In other business, the board
* heard a review of the monthly financial statement for January 2019. School CFO Julie Madden reported a balance of $14.48 million, with operating reserve of 4.69 months.
* approved the 2019-2020 School Calendar
* voted to sell surplus buses, vehicles and equipment
* approved SchoolStatus program for data analytics and communication in the amount of $39,600.00
* awarded bid 2019-3 for a video surveillance system to Information Transport Solutions not to exceed the original bid amount of $731,234.95. Escambia County Board of Education reserves the right to purchase from this bid in phases based upon district needs and available funds as determined by the Superintendent.
* awarded Wide Area Network Services (WAN) mini-bid to Information Transport Solutions in the amount of $201,600.00. (Pending E-rate approval) The WAN services mini-bid is for a term of 48 months beginning July 1, 2019 and is contingent upon E-rate funding.