By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
While public school students and teachers across the county prepared for a two-week Christmas break, Escambia County School System officials prepared to take advantage of empty buildings to get much-needed renovations and repairs completed.
“Anytime the kids are out, we try to do as much as we can in facility upgrades, updates or projects that we need do while the students are out of school,” explained Deputy of Operations Shaun Goolsby during the Board of Education’s December 15 meeting. “We’ve planned more than will probably get done but if we don’t get it done during Christmas break, we’ll probably get to it during Spring break.”
At least 10 school buildings or facilities will be included in the holiday revamp, including Huxford Elementary (HES), Rachel Patterson Elementary (RPES), Escambia County Middle (ECMS) and Escambia County High (ECHS).
A $1 million upgrade to ECMS’s air conditioning system will probably be the most intensive among work done at local schools.
“We are upgrading all the air conditioning units and taking the ones out of the gym,” Goolsby said, noting that the gym units will “requires some structural engineers to be involved with that project.”
Plans are to replace the marquee sign at RPES, but the deputy of operations said that likely won’t be completed during the break.
“I don’t think it will be done while we’re out for Christmas break, but we are going to be repairing fascia and doing soffit repair where they fell, around back by the loading dock.”
Work began this week on a new front entrance to the school.
AT ECHS, gym doors have already been replaced, but there will be other exterior doors replaced and repairs to the cafeteria floor will continue.
Goolsby said the work on access control to the HES building has been completed. He added that proceeds from a Resource Conservation & Development Council grant will be used to pay for installation of some gates that will help control access to the schoolyard from Huxford Road.
The building on Martin Luther King Avenue that formerly housed ECMS was also mentioned. Goolsby said a bid on demolition of the building “will go out when we come back from the holidays.”
In other action taken by the board during the session:
*A moment of silence was observed for W.S. Neal Elementary student William Kennedy, who passed away earlier this month, and for his family and WSNE’s students. Board President Danny Benjamin said the youngster “will be remembered by his smile, his determination, his enjoyable attitude.”
*Superintendent Michele McClung announced the winners of the second annual Superintendent’s Christmas Card Contest, which she called a “huge success.” The winning artwork was printed on official Christmas cards that were mailed out to all the churches from Atmore to Brewton and to various members of the community.
Two local students were among the winners — Cecelia Levold, a 7th grader at ECMS, won the middle school competition, and JaKayla Bullard, a sophomore at ECHS, won in the high school classification. Taylor Coleman (5th, Flomaton Elementary School) was the elementary school winner, and Harley Wilson, a WSN senior, won the Superintendent’s Choice award.
*Assistant Superintendent Michele Collier presented a preview of the redesign of the system’s website, as well as each school’s. She said the project was nearing completion and should be ready for launch in mid-January. Training is set for January 9.
* Approved an agreement with Thompson, Garrett and Hines law firm for the upcoming year and agreed to pay a $1,000 retainer.
*Heard from Chief Schools Financial Officer Rochelle Robinson that the system’s unreserved fund balance on November 30 was $17,641,490. That amount is equivalent to roughly five months of operations, which is a state requirement.
*Set the next regular monthly meeting for 4:30 p.m. January 12, at W.S. Neal High School.
*Board members discussed some of the things they learned during the Alabama Association of School Boards winter conference December 1-3 in Hoover. Topics from the effect of absenteeism on graduation rates, to career readiness programs, to the increased problem of fentanyl use and the increasing amount of opioid addiction were cited by various members.
The board approved the following personnel recommendations by McClung.
1. David Bellanger, math teacher, Escambia County High School (ECHS), effective December 16, 2022
2. Matthew Mize, agriscience teacher, ECHS, effective January 3, 2023
3. Shemika Barnes, instructional teacher aide, Escambia County Middle School (ECMS), effective January 2, 2023
4. Russell Robinson, special education teacher, ECMS, effective December 15, 2022
5. Robert Shipp. 7-hour lunchroom worker, Rachel Patterson Elementary School (RPES), effective December 8, 2022
6. April Monk, bus driver, Brewton bus shop, effective November 1, 2022
1. Raven Ates, elementary teacher, RPES, effective January 3, 2023 (replacing Sandra Forbes)
2. Rebecca Jones, 7-hour lunchroom worker, RPES effective January 3, 2023 (replacing Robert Shipp)
3. Julie Rowland, instructional teacher aide, RPES, effective January 3, 2023 (replacing Stephanie Mosley)
4. Jennifer Lee, English/ language arts teacher, W.S. Neal Middle School, effective January 3, 2023 (replacing Meagan Barragan)
5. Hannah Bryant, speech language pathologist, Office of Special Education and Student Services, effective January 3, 2023 (replacing Jacob Middleton)
1. Approval to enter into TEAMS contract with the following personnel:
Daphne Sullivan, math teacher, ECMS