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Sumter County Board of Education comes to agreement with Sumter County Board of Commissioners as well as passing 21-22 budget

The Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) met for their regular meeting on Thursday, 6.17.21. Several items were up for a vote and most of them passed unanimously. All board members were involved, with Abbis Bivins being present by phone. To begin the meeting Dr. Torrance Choates gave his report. Upon request he indicates summer school has been successful.

The curriculum committee approved 4 items unanimously. The 21-22 Student Handbooks, a math curriculum, a social-emotional learning review and the Modern Teacher Agreement were passed. The CARES Act will cover $94,000 of the costs. The financial reports were approved. The 2021-2022 budget is balanced at $42,430,456 and no mill rate change is scheduled. The BOE passed two policies. Competitive interscholastic activities for grades 6-12 was passed to go into effect immediately. Paid parental leave was also passed to go into effect immediately. The property committee’s recommendations were approved with one van, two buses and one truck being sold as surplus. The BOE will be purchasing 2 scoreboards for the practice gym at a cost of $21, 000 per board.

Old business brought a good bit of conversation. Dr. Choates recommended the BOE contract with Fresh Start, an alternative school provider. This is a change in providers and when questioned, the superintendent indicated a change was needed as the last provider had some performance issues as was reported by the high school principal, Kimothy Hadley. Jim Reed investigated the reasons for Choate’s recommendation. After Choates offered his reasoning, Reed indicated he had strong concerns over allegations Fresh Start plagiarized the competitor’s contract. Choates reports he reviewed that allegation with the BOE attorney. The attorney indicated to Choates there was “no such thing” as plagiarizing a contract from a legal standpoint. Reed remarked, “Plagiarism is plagiarism and plagiarism speaks to character. That is a deal killer for me.” Reed voted reflecting his opinion, he along with Rick Barnes opposed signing the contract. Patricia Harris abstained from the vote; the remaining members voted in favor of signing a $670,000 contract. Fresh Start will be housed in the old Ninth Grade Academy building and will provide lunch as well as incur electricity costs.

New business included an agreement with Southwest Georgia Community Action (Head Start) and Albany State/ SW Ga. Project were passed. The BOE has made an agreement with the Sumter County Board of Commissioners over Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) terms. The BOE will receive funds from two solar farms, an initial payment at approximately 14% and following annual payments at approximately 16%. Both votes passed 6-1 with Jim Reed opposing the action. School nursing contracts were approved with one RN and two medical techs providing services. The funding comes through the CARES Act. The medical providers will be housed on schools off Bumphead Road and will be available to Sumter County High School as needed. Lastly the BOE approved the recommendation of paying Special Education Team Leaders a $1000 incentive in hopes of rewarding retention and the additional work required of a team leader.

The BOE then entered executive session. Upon coming back into open session, personnel changes were addressed. The BOE approved 2 retirements, 9 resignations, 5 transfers, 20 new-hires and two Family Leave Act requests. Additionally, three third-party contracts were approved.

The meeting, along with others impacted by COVID-19 can be found on the Sumter County Schools Facebook page.