School transportation department over budget

Published 12:45 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — Despite a lengthy open work session Monday night, the Sumter County Board of Education’s agenda for its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday is relatively light.

In his report, Superintendent Torrance Choates provided board members with a color-coded sheet (which was not made available to the media present), that he said was an overview of the school system’s transportation budget for the past “four to five years.” He talked about the information on the sheet. Board member Rick Barnes commented, “We’re budgeted for $2.3 million but we will spend $2.6 million.” Choates said the difference is approximately $440,000. A request was made after the open session for a copy of the data, which was not released.

At the work session, Bill Sampson of the Georgia School Board Association, (GSBA) addressed the board for the second consecutive month about standards, strategic planning, the need for communications and community relations, and a board self-assessment. Sampson stated that there are certain mandates by the GSBA that the local board must include in its policies.

Sampson listed some of the questions the board members must ask themselves when they do their self-assessment such as: Does the board act only as one body? Who communicates the board’s position to the media (the public) when there is a controversy? Does the board move ahead with the decisions it makes? Do individual board members all give the same message? Does the board accept the superintendent as the CEO? Does the superintendent communicate with all board members consistently?

“When the board is together and works together,” Sampson told them, “the school system’s performance improves. When there is discord, it shows.”

Another presentation at the work session came from Sumter County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Col. Eric Bryant, who introduced the school system’s School Resource Officers: Maj, Joseph Monts, Sgt. Tyler Gary (Sumter County Elementary), Cpl. Montena Fish (Sumter County Primary), Cpl. Stephanie Floyd (Americus Sumter High School), and Deputies Antoinette Johnson (Sumter County Middle), Kelvin Coley (Americus Sumter Ninth Grade Academy), and Covery Hill (Sumter County Intermediate).

Bryant stressed that the SRO program’s role is to keep the students, faculty and staff of the schools safe. He said they have expanded SRO hours to include early mornings and late afternoons. He expressed appreciation for the cooperation of the Americus Police Department in passing along information from the community that might impact the school environment.

Board member Rick Barnes asked how the opening day went this school year. Bryant said it was one of smoothest starts he had seen.

The third presentation at the work session came from Associate Superintendent Walter Knighton, who gave a curriculum update to the board. Due to the length of his presentation and the depth of data, a separate story will appear in Saturday’s edition of the Times-Recorder.

Under old business, Choates said the board needs to discuss field trips. Saturday school and summer school in light of the transportation budget shortfall. “The transportation department is taking on the full cost now,” he said. “We spent over $20,000 on nine days of summer school and Saturday school. We need to talk about it and save money, maybe have the schools pay for the drivers for field trips. For Saturday school and summer school, the parents should pay for it. Once they realize they have to pay for it, we might see more students pass.”

Board member Alice Green said the board needs to schedule a retreat to discuss the matter. Board retreats are open to the public. Board member Jim Reid concurred with Green. “We need to make the time to have an open, frank discussion.” Board chair Dr. Mike Busman asked the board to consider some dates for such a retreat for the next month or so.

Items on the agenda for Thursday include the following.

  • Approve financial report, accounts payable for July 2017, and preliminary cash flow report.
  • Approve acceptance of the CTAE state and federal fund allotments for FY 2018. The state portion represents almost $2.4 million.
  • Approve acceptance of the 21st Century PASS Grant. This is for $350,000.
  • Approve personnel action items: resignation, employment, third-party contracts, long-term substitutes, Family Medical Leave Act requests, and FY 2018 academic/athletic supplements.

Under new business, the board will discuss the GSBA Governance Team Self-Assessment, Local School Board Governance Annual Training Report, and Transportation Budget Comparison Digest.