Herald-Advocate News

School board hears proposal on school reconfigurations

  • 17 January 2019
  • Author: Dan McNiel
  • Number of views: 1851

A proposal by Superintendent Dr. Gregory McCord for possible reconfiguration of some district schools was presented at Monday's  Marlboro County Board of Education meeting.
McCord noted before the bond referendum question was taken to the public,  he had stated some serious conversations needed to take place regarding the current school configurations.
"These were just ideas I have that I would like for you to consider," he said. "You will not be able to answer tonight. But if and when you do have workshops, these are conversations that we can continue and go into more detail."
In his recommendation, Bennettsville Primary School would have grades pre-kindergarten through third. Currently, the school configuration could hold those grades with a few building modifications.
McCord said he would like to see the fifth graders returned to Bennettsville Intermediate School so they don't have to be taken to Clio Elementary Middle School. BIS would serve students in grades fourth and fifth.
CEMS would be combined with the School of Discovery and called Clio School of Discovery. 
It would take pre-k through eighth grades along with the students at SOD. It could be used as an opportunity to create or brand the school as Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM).
"It falls in line with School of Discovery, which is an art integrated instructional design," he said. "We would be able to serve the students there in the Clio community as well  those transferring in and wanting to be part of the School of Discovery."
The SOD building could be repurposed to benefit the district. 
He said it could be a potential source of revenue where a community agency or organization could rent, lease or buy.
"These are just things for you to research and discuss as a board," McCord said.
Students zoned for Blenheim Elementary Middle School would continue in pre-k through eighth grade.  There would be the addition of students coming to BIS in grades sixth through eighth.
Wallace Elementary Middle School, McColl Elementary Middle School, and Marlboro County High School would remain the same.
McCord said not having to bus students would be a benefit to all students involved at BIS by not having to lose instructional time and cutting down on disruptions between one school to the next one.
It would allow the district to have four schools utilizing the pre-k-eighth model, which would allow for consistency.
Currently, it costs $1.2 million a year to operate SOD. McCord felt this money could be used to provide all employees a cost of living supplement. 
McCord said the money not spent at SOD would allow them to help employees from top to bottom receive funds they are worthy of.
He noted Marlboro County School District is at or near the bottom for the Pee Dee Region when it comes to salaries and it would give them an opportunity to help with retention of employees as well as recruitment for employees. 
"My job and role as a good steward of taxpayer money is to find a way to be creative in our design and approach," McCord said. "We have to do something different. I am just asking you to consider it before you shoot it down. I am willing to provide any information that you need to support what I believe will move us forward. Again, this is just for conversation. I say this to the public as well. I don't want anyone to think this is a foregone conclusion. I simply wanted to bring it to the board for discussion for the public so we can answer any questions that they are already asking."
Vice chairman Jackie Branch said he wanted to let the citizens know that board members were just hearing about this at the same time they were and a lot of it was new to them. 
"I will fight to keep the School of Discovery like it is now," he said. "I think you can throw all the numbers of saving this and that but can you put a price on the excellence that the school has provided us in the last few years."
McCord said he didn't want to diminish what is going on at SOD but thought they could do more with a STEAM program.
Branch felt if the two schools were combined, parents would take their SOD student back to their home school. 
McCord said SOD design model is for arts but wanted it to be an instructional and arts program designed for the school.
Chairman Larry McNeil said he knew there was going to be some workshops concerning the discussion. 
"I think at that time we will be able to discuss this more clearly when we have more facts about what we are doing," he said. "We can look at numbers and hear things and see what we are talking about."
McCord encouraged board members to send him their questions so when they have discussions, district officials could be prepared.
The school configuration discussion stemmed from an update on the bond referendum.
McCord looked at the timeline for it and his goal of hiring a district project manager for the building projects.
The job description was for a candidate with a proven track record that demonstrates the ability to manage contracts anywhere from $1,000 to $10 million. It will be a person with knowledge in the areas of RFPs from start to finish, new and existing construction, and management of construction projects.
With work already started on camera installations, a large portion of the work would be done at BIS.
This will include demolitions, removal as well of the start of construction for a new cafeteria and extensive renovations for the auditorium. McCord wanted to bring a person, who would be contracted through the district, on board to get the project started immediately.

Board transparency
Board member Nan Fleming addressed the board about the voting by paper ballot for vice chairman and board secretary on Jan. 8.
"I think my integrity was kind of brought into question by a vote that was done secretly that is against school board policy," she said.
She was concerned something like this could affect funding and accreditation.
Board member Michael Coachman agreed and read the policy to the board. 
"The policy and procedures of the Marlboro County School Board are like the Bible is for a pastor teaching his congregation," he said.
McNeil apologized and said his intent from day one was to make sure the changes they make are better for the community. 
"In my zeal to try to make those changes and get things done in the best way I know how to resolve some of these issues that we have," he said. "I did it based on my understanding of what voting is and also what we are doing when we do nominations."
He added it was his fault and not the board members. 
Branch asked about the policy of re-voting. 
McCord said a member of the prevailing side of the motion that carries could offer for the board's consideration another motion but it has to be someone from the prevailing side. 
"Since we don't know who was on the prevailing side since it was a secret ballot, it kind of makes it a moot point," McCord said.

Budget calendar 
Board members approved the 2019-20 budget calendar. Dates approved, which could have additions or deletions,  include:
--Feb. 2 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) board workshop on bond referendum project: facility rehab, safety and security, review staffing standards/school configurations and student populations and budget goals and objectives;
--March 4 board workshop on bond referendum project: facility rehab, safety and security, review staffing standards/school configurations and student populations and budget goals and objectives;
--March 18 board workshop on staffing based on configuration recommendation;
--April 8 first budget workshop: board approves certified staff and administrator listing and respective contracts;
--April 29 second budget workshop;
--May 6 board approves advertisement for the first reading public hearing at the regular meeting;
--May 16 public notice in Marlboro Herald of public hearing and first reading of 2019-20;
--May 20 third budget workshop (if required);
--June 3 public hearing and first reading of the budget
--June 10 second reading of the budget;
-- June 17 third reading of the budget (if required).

Other business
In other business, the board of education members:
--learned the fiscal year 2017-18 financial audit received a clean opinion;
--approved the second reading of a revision to policy IJOC-R 
--approved the first reading of policy IFCE-R policy 
--learned the district had expended, as of Jan. 9, $14,236,772 of a $32,818,572 budget or 43.38 percent of the budget.

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