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School board axes alternate bus routes, addresses dwindling snow days

Johnson County Schools have only been in session eight days since November, five in December and a measly three this month and this winter’s hefty portion of snowfall and the number of days missed for inclement weather is causing administrative and instructional concerns with regards to upcoming spring state testing. With standardized test scores increasingly determining a school’s success or failure, many districts, including Johnson County, abbreviated the summer vacation and went back to school in early August to give students additional time in the classroom before state exams, but snowstorm after snowstorm is threatening to curtail the effort and the Johnson County Board of Education began discussion as to the most effective way to recoup missed instructional time.
“As of this week, we have missed 16 days of school,” reported Woodring. “We were unable to make up one day when we changed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to an instructional day since the roads were still too dangerous for buses.” The board, however, voted unanimously to change Presidents’ Day, February 21st, from a holiday to a regular instructional day to make up an additional day missed.
Included in the school calendar are 13 stockpiled days in addition to five additional snow days. “If we miss more than that we will have to look at making changes to the school calendar,” he said. The state department of education sets a testing schedule window, in which state tests including the ACT, Gateway and Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) are administered.
“The unpredictable weather has been very challenging,” said Woodring. “We know our teachers and staff will be extra diligent when we return to school to address the lost instructional time.”
During the discussion, board member Kevin Long questioned the board’s decision to implement the alternate bus route as publicized. “I am concerned about the liability of this,” he explained. After a lengthy discussion as to the pros and cons of using an alternate route, Long made the motion to rescind and annul alternate bus routes. Board member Bill Gambill seconded the motion and all board members voted in favor of eliminating use of the alternate routes with the exception of Howard Carlton. Although a detailed alternate bus route schedule was adopted in the fall by the board, it was never used.
The board discussed the need to devise a plan to make up days missed for snow when, and if, the harsh winter continues and schools are forced to close more than five additional days. Options discussed included “Saturday school” and extending the school year, both of which have pros and cons. The board directed Woodring to place the possibility of Saturday school on the agenda for the February board meeting.
After approval of the consent agenda, student board member Joshua Hamilton provided a report. “January has not been kind to us thus far,” he reported, “but there is some good news to report. During the three days that we were in school, we finished all EOC exams and began the first day of the second semester.” He also announced Wednesday, January 19th will be Financial aid night for all seniors and their parents at the high school.
Supervisor of Elementary & Special Education Debra Wilcox presented an elaborate and detailed Powerpoint report concerning the 2010 Tennessee Schools Report Card recently released by the state department of education and reiterated this year’s data reflected “a baseline year for Tennessee students” through the use of current year data for AYP and new levels of student performance — “basic” and “below basic”– as approved by the State Board of Education. Collectively these changes should provide a more accurate picture of student performance and help identify how much students need to progress to attain proficiency.
The following personnel decisions were presented by the Director of Schools – Resignations— Dot Scruggs as JCMS assistant, Sydney Lowe as Early Childhood Development Center, Judd Shoun as JCHS Asst. Basketball Coach, Denise Arnold as JCHS school counselor, and Carrie Osborne as MCE school nutrition employee. The retirement request for Diane Bentley (Shady Valley Elementary School) was withdrawn and withdrawal request was approved. Hires — Buford Wright as JCHS counselor, Robert Blevins as substitute custodian, John Ward as Doe Elementary custodian, Rebecca Herman as part-time GEAR-UP Post-Secondary Transition Coach, Mary Eller as JCMS instructional assistant and Amanda Phipps as substitute nutrition employee.