School board sees gradual increase in STARS scores and discusses absentee rate

Published 1:06 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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The Sumter County Board of Education met on June 17th. Rusty Warner, director of the Payroll Development Authority, addressed the board. “The old Americus High School is a massive asset to the real estate market. The property currently does not contribute to property taxes or any revenue and the school system is forced to spend money to prevent the empty buildings from falling into disrepair, on top of this, you must also do the landscaping, pay bills and pay staff. As the economic development director for the City and County, I would like to see the property used at its highest and best use.” He mentioned that selling the property would bring in revenue instead of requiring tax payer dollars for maintenance and negatively affecting property values.

Director of maintenance Billy Thompkins updated the board, starting with the Ag and Cannery facility construction: “The site work is still ongoing as far as dirt removal and packing.”

Thompkins then addressed the Sumter County Middle School upgrades. “The bid opened June 11th, 2024, at three o’clock.” He talked about the scope of the work in the gym. “The replacement of the gym flooring, the replacement of the bleachers, painting of the main gym floor [ect].” He mentioned further planned improvements: “Concession stand would get a total remodel, flooring, ceiling, restroom work, boy’s and girl’s restroom, new countertops, cabinets. . . as well as paint, and also new entrance doors to replace the existing doors that are down there leading into the lobby.”

The Board then heard from architect Greg Smith, addressing bids. “The estimate that I had developed was $2,300,000 for phase one of the middle school.” He mentioned the lowest bid: “The low bid is from LRA at $1,553,353 so a significant reduction in cost over what I had projected it would be.”

Superintendent Walter Knighton addressed the Board. He told how the nutrition department serves meals throughout the community and to those in Summer school. “And for the first week, we were able to distribute 17,000 meals to students and residents relative to our kids and in the community.”

Assistant Superintendent Kimothy Hadley gave a report: “Out of science and social studies, for 2022-2023, 90% of our students passed.” He stated that 93% of students passed science this year. Social studies, 22-23, 87% percent of the students passed, and in social studies for the 23-24 school year 93% of the students were passing social studies for the end of the year.”

La Shaunda Thomas gave the District STAR data, starting with STAR early literacy, which is administered in K-3. 37% of students were in urgent intervention in August of the current school year, dropping to 28% in March. 28% of students were in intervention, dropping to 22%. 12% of students were on watch, which moved to 14%. 23% of students were at or above grade level at the beginning of the school year, which rose to 36%.

Thomas gave the results for STAR reading: “At the beginning of the year we had 48% at beginning learner, and at the end of the year 44%. Developing learner 31%, remained at 31%. Proficient 16% to 21%, and distinguished 4% to 4%.”

She gave STAR Math first through 12th grade clarifying who takes the test. “Those students who took STAR early literacy, they did not take a math test until they were able to move on to the STAR test. Beginning learner level, 55% to 47%, developing, 32% to 35%, proficient, 10% to 13%, and distinguished, 3% to 5%.”

Superintendent Knighton then addressed the Board, explaining how students who miss more than 10% of their enrollment are considered chronically absent. Knighton told how as a system they started out at 92% average daily attendance last year, and that this year the starting average was 93%. He mentioned the average daily attendance rate at the end of last year was 93% and the average rate at the end of this year was 94%. He gave an analysis: “If you have an average daily attendance rate of 93 and below, you certainly have chronic attendance issues.”

Hadley also presented the Board with information about Cloud 12 LLC classroom cameras for in-school intervention, formerly known as ISS (in school suspension), saying that they were “looking at transforming what we do in ISS and how we utilize ISS for for an instructional piece to ensure that students who are missing work, who are missing instructional time, that we are alleviating it.”