News Staff Report
The Escambia County Board of Education voted unanimously during its March 17 meeting to purchase reading intervention and related programs that will allow the local school district to meet requirements of the Alabama Literacy Act.
The purchase, designed to increase reading proficiency for third-grade students over the next six years, includes the reading intervention program, as well as an interactive read-aloud program and professional development for reading teachers.
The purchase, from BBB Educational Enterprises and Heinemann, is primarily for K5 students. It will cost $419,334.39 — $252,210.39 for materials and $167,124 for professional development — and will be paid for with funds from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) program, part of the national Coronavirus Aid and Relief for Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Superintendent of Education Michele McClung explained to the six board members present (District 1’s Kevin Hoomes was unable to attend the meeting.) that the county system’s third graders are in dire need of the program’s help.
“Under the Literacy Act, if students in third grade are not reading at grade level, they will be retained,” she explained. “So, we need to really beef up what we’re doing to promote literacy before third grade. At this time, over 80 percent of our students in third grade are not reading at grade level so we need this program, along with the curriculum and ancillary materials.”
McClung, who said a Mobile County school at which she was principal realized significant results from the program, said the professional development aspects were invaluable to local schools, teachers and students.
“The coaching is very important, particularly since have a lot of brand-new teachers and a lot of untrained teachers,” she said. “Also, because have sanctions placed on students if they don’t meet the criteria for the Literacy Act, we want to do everything we can to prepare our teachers, so our students are meeting that criteria as well.
“I think this is an outstanding investment for us to really make some gains and change the trajectory of our proficiency in scores quickly.”
In answer to a question from District 6’s Sherry Digmon, the superintendent said the local system currently has no intervention program in place.
“We don’t even have a pacing guide in place now,” said McClung, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Nicole Spottswood said the program would provide “consistency across the school district.”
Brian Rhodes, president of BBB Educational Enterprises, told board members that the intervention strategy has proven successful in other districts. He added that the professional development aspect was a key part of the program.
“Our goal to increase teachers’ knowledge of practice,” he said. “We know right now that there is a teacher shortage across the country, so we’ve got to spend more energy and effort in developing teachers’ knowledge and practice, and that should impact student learning.”
In other business, the board:
*Approved salary increases for the system’s two Central Office executive secretaries — Michelle Lucas, who handles administrative tasks for six different officials, and Amie Kramer, who also performs custodial work.
Digmon asked if the increases could wait until the board considers system-wide salary adjustments later. McClung replied that there was a danger of losing one or both of the employees to another school system unless action was taken immediately.
District 2’s Danny Benjamin commented that giving just two employees an increase will cause some people to say the action is unfair, to which Mike Edwards, District 3, replied, “Let them say that.”
Board member Cindy Jackson, District 4, voted no on the increases.
*Approved increases in the daily pay for substitute teachers (from $60 to $80) and for bus drivers (from $50 to $75).
*Approved, on the recommendation of Transportation Director Forrest Jones, the purchase from Ward International of new air conditioning and UV purification systems for 64 county school buses. The two systems, as well as alternators for each one, will cost $17,321 per bus.
*Heard from Chief School Financial Officer (CSFO) Julie Madden that the system’s finances were “healthy,” with $21.44 million currently in the General Fund. Benjamin cautioned that the board “must be as frugal as we can with these funds so we can use them down the road for things we really need.”
*Increased the mileage reimbursement rate for employees to 58.5 cents per mile, brining the local rate in line with the increase approved earlier this year by the state.
*Voted to accept a $2.6 million settlement for damage caused last year by Tropical Storm Claudette to W.S. Neal High School (WSN), a move recommended by Deputy of Operations Shaun Goolsby.
*Approved the purchase, for $43,425 from Venducation, of vending machines for ala carte food in the cafeterias at Escambia County High (ECHS), Flomaton High and WSN.
*Approved a textbook adoption recommendation from a committee led by Elementary Supervisor Jason Weeks and Spottswood.
*Tabled for 30 days, as is board policy, state-mandated implementation of Annalynn’s Law, which specifies how to handle situations involving students who might be sex offenders.
*Agreed to enter into an agreement with Alabama Association of School Boards to provide finder services in support of the search for a new CSFO to replace Madden, whose retirement was later approved. (Jackson later offered an apology to Madden, who had already left the meeting, for approving this item before accepting her retirement in personnel. Digmon echoed Jackson’s concern. However, board president Coleman Wallace dismissed their statements, saying there was “no protocol” for this.)
* Voted to expel two Escambia County High School students for a period of up to one calendar year for violation of the school system board policy / Student Code of Conduct, following an executive session. Per policy, the superintendent will allow the students to receive educational services through Escambia County Alternative School / Virtual School. In a roll call vote, Benjamin and Digmon voted no.
*Announced that the board’s April meeting would be held at ECHS, at which time members of the school’s basketball team would be given individual plaques commemorating their reaching the state Class 4A championship game. State Representative Alan Baker funded the plaques and plans to be at the meeting to honor the players.
The following personnel recommendations by McClung were approved by the board.
Leave of absence
1. Sabrina Dialey, 6-hour lunchroom worker, Rachel Patterson Elementary School, medical leave of absence, effective February 8, 2022, through May 25, 2022
1. Teresa Lucas, temporary part-time JAG Career Specialist, Escambia County School System, effective June 8, 2022
2. Denise Respress, 6-hour lunchroom worker, Escambia County Middle School, effective March 8, 2022
3. Lasonja George, special education aide, Escambia County Middle School effective March 11, 2022
4. Charlotte Lucas, English/language arts teacher, Escambia County Middle School, effective May 26, 2022
5. D’Atra Howard, elementary teacher, Escambia County Middle School, effective March 11, 2022
6. Cassie Chavers, licensed practical nurse (LPN) aide, Flomaton Elementary School, effective March 11, 2022
7. Marilyn Bradley, part-time academic interventionist, Pollard McCall Junior High School, effective January 17, 2022
8. Krista Ealum, elementary teacher, Rachel Patterson Elementary School, effective March 8, 2022
9. Tiffany Gideons, 6-hour lunchroom worker, WS Neal Middle School, effective March 27, 2022
10. Shannon Boutwell, maintenance supervisor, Brewton Maintenance Shop, effective March 31, 2022
11. Janice McDougle, bus driver, Atmore Bus Shop, effective March 16, 2022
12. Pamela Tomlinson, bus driver, Atmore Bus Shop, effective February 28, 2022
1. Julie Madden, CSFO / Director of Financial Operations, Escambia County Board of Education, effective June 30, 2022
2. Amy Cabaniss, principal, Escambia County High School, effective July 1, 2022
1. Amber Dunaway, teacher, Academic Recovery Response Plan After School Program, Pollard McCall Junior High School, effective March 3, 2022
2. Ashley Mobley, special education aide, Escambia County Middle School, effective March 28, 2022 (replacing Lasonja George)
3. Madison Carpenter, elementary teacher, Escambia County Middle School, effective March 28, 2022 (replacing D’Atra Howard)
4. Mary Caupp, Counselor, W.S. Neal High School, effective February 28, 2022 (replacing Tonya Ragan)(amended date)
5. Jennings Hobbs, instructional aide, W.S. Neal Elementary School, effective March 18, 2022
6. Armisha Cooks, bus driver, Atmore Bus Shop, effective March 18, 2022 (replacing Larine Darnell)
1. Approval for renewal of principal contract for Leah Fuqua, Huxford Elementary School, for a 3-year period, effective July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025.
2. Approval for renewal of principal contract for Toya McMillian, Rachel Patterson Elementary School, for a 3-year period, effective July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025.
3. Approval for renewal of principal contract for Perry Updike, W. S. Neal Middle School, for a 3-year period, effective July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025.
4. Approval for renewal of principal contract for Sabrina Wilson, Escambia Career Readiness Center for a 3-year period, effective July, 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025.