Brandi Herndon, moderator of the Facebook group, Parents Improving Oconee Schools, has asked the Oconee County Board of Education to consider changing the times of its meetings to accommodate parents and to hold town hall meetings.
In comments before the Board of Education last week, Herndon said the current 5 p.m. meetings are “really hard for parents and especially working parents” and that town hall meetings would be “a place to identify and implement solutions to problems” in the county’s schools.
In other action last week, the Board decided–in a rare split vote–to approve a request from Superintendent Jason Branch that the Board spend $949,647 from the current Education Local Option Sales Tax on computers for teachers and students.
The Board also received a request from Robert Wyatt, chair of the Oconee County Library Board, for an increase of $2,000 for support of the county’s two libraries, bringing the Board’s contribution in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget to $28,000.
Herndon told the Board that she was speaking not only for herself but “on behalf of numerous parents and citizens who have reached out to me and voiced these same concerns” about the timing of meetings and the need for town hall meetings.
The Facebook group Parents Improving Oconee Schools has grown “in recent weeks” from 300 members to 814, Herndon said. (As of April 25, the group had 832 members.)
Herndon, 1020 Echo Trail, outside Watkinsville, said she understands that the current 5 p.m. meeting time is convenient for the administration and staff.
That time, however, makes it difficult for parents “to be able to attend and be involved and for many of them just be informed of what’s going on and what you are doing,” Herndon said. She asked the Board to consider a later time for meetings.
Town Hall meetings would give Board a chance to inform citizens about issues and “gauge where this community stands” on issues facing the schools, Herndon said.
If the Board would not set up such meetings, Herndon asked, would the members attend and participate in a meeting “if a group of parents and citizens were to organize it?”
Superintendent Branch recommended that the Board accept a $949,647 bid by Virtucom, of Norcross in Gwinnett County, to provide 3,198 computers, consisting almost entirely of Chromebook devices.
|Board Member Tim Burgess|
Virtucom was the low bidder among the four companies that submitted responses to a request for proposals by the School System, Chief Academic Officer Claire Buck told the Board of Education at its work session on April 9.
Buck told the Board that the expenditure was part of the System’s plan to have at least one computer for each student by 2020.
Board of Education member Tim Burgess asked Buck at the April 9 meeting to come back to the Board at the April 16 meeting with information on how the $949,647 expenditure fits with other plans for spending for the current Education Local Option Sales Tax, which went into effect at the first of the year.
Neither Branch or Buck provided that information in the April 16 meeting, but they did acknowledge that about $1 million remained unspent from the Education Local Option Sales Tax that expired last year.
Branch said the exact amount was not yet determined and there would be other “opportunities” to spend that money.
Burgess wanted the Board to purchase the computers from the “unobligated” balance from the expired Education Local Option Sales Tax rather than the current one, but he was outvoted 4 to 1.
Library Board Chair Wyatt said he also was making requests of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, the Watkinsville City Council and the Bogart City Council to increase their funding for the Watkinsville and Bogart libraries.
In the current fiscal year, the Board of Commissioners provides $412,616, Watkinsville provides $19,000, and Bogart provides $6,500.
The four governments provide the regular funding for operation of the two libraries, which are part of the Athens Regional Library System.
Friends of the Bogart Library and Friends of the Oconee County Library provide supplemental funding.
Wyatt made his comments at 33:50.
Herndon made her comments to the Board at 38:18 in the video.
Superintendent Branch began discussion of the computer contract at 42:06 in the video.
Georgia House District 119 Representative Jonathan Wallace presented a proclamation passed by the Georgia House at the beginning of the meeting recognizing 2018 Teachers of the Year Rachel Aaron, Sharon Golden, Charlotte Chromiak, Rachael Hadden, Mimi Gaines, Tabitha Register, Sandra Nash and Katie Williams.