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School Board looks to fully utilize ‘Race To The Top’ funds

The May meeting of the Johnson County Board of Education was held Thursday evening in the midst of a swirl of end-of-the-year awards presentations and various graduation festivities.
Outgoing Student Board Member, Brittany Sluder, presented a report, which included information on upcoming events such as senior awards ceremony and picnic, final exams, summer school and graduation.
“A Baccalaureate Service will be held on Tuesday night, May 25 at 7:00 at Bethany Baptist Church,” reported Sluder, “and the JCHS Class of 2010 will graduate on Saturday morning, May 29 at 10:00. A ticket is required for admittance to the graduation ceremony.”
Also in attendance was Josh Hamilton, an upcoming senior and current student school board member who will step into Sluder’s position on the board. Sluder and Hamilton were presented their official Student Congress on Policies in Education (SCOPE) certificates in conjunction with attending meeting in Nashville recently where they discuss major topics involving education issues and hold mock board meetings, discussions and debates.
The consent agenda, which was unanimously approved by the board, included approving participation as a member in the P.E.B.B.L.E.S. Extended Learning and Teaching Project Consortium, which is applying for federal funds available through the Investing in Innovation grant offered under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education, the memorandum of understanding between Niswonger Foundation and Johnson County Schools to articulate specific roles and responsibilities of partners in the Northeast Tennessee College and Career Ready Consortium’s Investing in Innovation grant proposal, and the local consolidated application for federal funding along with approval of the continuing budget resolution for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010. Several budget amendments were also approved by consent.
In other action, the board approved the purchase and installation of an Iwatsu ECS telephone system and solar school zone safety lights for Doe Elementary. Bids were awarded to Summers Hardware and Supply Company for custodial paper supplies for 2010-2011 school year, and to ADT for monitoring system for all the walk-in freezers and coolers in the school cafeterias. Also approved was the purchase of three wall mounted ductless heat pump systems for the Construction Technology Education building, which will be used for Health Occupation classes.
Before receiving a budget update from finance coordinator Russell Robinson, Mischelle Simcox, Supervisor of Secondary & Student Services, presented the required “Scope of Work Plan” to begin receiving Race to the Top (RTTP) funds.  As far as Johnson County schools go, RTTP funds are to be allocated according to the same formula the state uses to distribute Title I funds to the school systems. Director of Schools Morris Woodring said the much-needed funds will likely allow for around $825,000 to be piped into the Johnson County school system’s budget; however, according to Woodring, there have been “a lot of strings attached to funding and the strings have changed over time.”
In outlining Johnson County’s “four-year scope of work” plan, Simcox explained anticipated efforts, which include supporting the transition across the state to new standards and assessments, improving teacher effectiveness and improving individual school performance. She reiterated: “all uses of this money must be considered new and innovative.”
Tennessee’s statewide plan relies heavily on data and teacher performance to improve results for 931,600 public school students. The state will require at least half of a teacher’s annual evaluation to be based on student achievement data and link evaluations to decisions on compensation, promotion and termination. It will track students after high school graduation and into college. And it will intervene directly in persistently low-achieving schools. In response, the board approved the first reading of recommended changes by the Tennessee School Board Association to several policies including the procedure for granting tenure, separation practices for tenured teachers, student psychological services and Special Education students.

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