The Oconee County Board of Education on Monday gave Brook Whitmire, Chief Human Resources Officer for Oconee County Schools, the authorization to begin assembling school system leaders to create a redistricting plan for the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
Whitmire told the Board a week earlier that while the primary purpose of redistricting was “to populate” the new Dove Creek Middle School, “anything is on the table” in terms of redistricting and all schools in the county could be affected by the plan.
The timetable approved by the Board indicates that a draft of the redistricting lines will be presented to the Board of Education at its Sept. 12 work session this year.
Public input will be accepted over the next month, and a public forum is scheduled for Oct. 11.
A final draft of the proposal is to be released to the Board at its work session on Nov. 7 and then be approved by the Board at its regular meeting on Nov. 14.
In other action on Monday, the Board voted to use $34,966 for new computer servers from Dell. The money will come from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds allocated to Oconee County Schools .
At the Jan. 19 retreat of the Board, Liz Harlow, school system Chief Financial Officer, had reported that Oconee County School had spent 57.5 percent of the $1.7 million already used from the most recent round of ESSER funding on technology.
Oconee County Schools has spent 5.5 percent of the most recently allocated relief money on learning recovery, 6.9 percent on counseling and social services, and 0.5 percent on disinfectant and related equipment, Harlow reported.
The action of the Board on Monday in approving the timetable followed a presentation to the Board at its work session on Feb. 7 by Whitmire.
|Screen Shot Of Whitmire Before Board|
Burgess, Michael Ransom 2/14/2022
At that time, Whitmire said, if the Board approved his timeline, “over the next half year or so or plus, I'll convene a cross-section of District leaders to examine potential attendance lines” for opening of the school year in August of 2023.
The plan is to publish the final attendance lines on Nov. 15 of this year, he said.
Whitmire told Board Member Tim Burgess that the new district lines will be in effect “when Dove Creek (Middle School) opens.”
“When school starts then these new lines that are part of this process” will be in effect, he said.
Extent Of Impact
Burgess asked Whitmire to compare the impact of the planned redistricting with what had taken place before Dove Creek Elementary School opened in 2018.
“Certainly there's some conjecture here,” Whitmire said. “But I would tell you that the primary objective obviously is to populate Dove Creek Middle School.”
“But beyond that,” he continued, “it could certainly budge other schools as well as we look to balance staffing and also of course student attendance at those schools.”
“Of course with the middle school being a third middle school, that has an impact that'll reach other schools as well,” Whitmire said. “So I would tell you that while its primary objective is the middle school, anything is on the table in terms of K-12 schools across the District, to be perfectly frank.”
Burgess asked if “this redistricting could in some form or fashion affect almost every school?”
“I believe so, yes,” Whitmire responded.
Nature Of Committee
At the meeting on Monday, Burgess asked Whitmire to elaborate on the “work group” that will be developing the redistricting plans.
Whitmire told Burgess “that group has not been assembled yet but what I can tell you is that it is a cross section of school district leaders.
“It will be very similar to last time,” he continued, “touching all areas of leadership of schools and offices, geographic differences in the county.”
The motion to approve the timetable was 4 to 0. Board Member Wayne Bagley did not attend the meeting on Monday.
At the meeting on Monday, the Board approved spending the $34.966 for the Dell servers plus $164,270 for cabling and installation at the new Dove Creek Middle School.
Transcend Communications was the low bidder judged to meet requirements of the RFP for the cabling and installation contract, which will provide network access to the Internet, intercoms, security cameras, and phones at the middle school.
The Board had approved this purchase at its meeting in January, but funding at the time was to come from the school system General Fund and from E-Rate funds, which are managed by the Federal Communications Commission.
At the Feb. 7 meeting, Susan Stancil, Director of Secondary Education, told the Board that “the good news is that this project does qualify for ELOST and will be funded with ELOST and E-Rate funds.”
ELOST stands for Education Local Option Sales Tax, approved by voters locally.
At the Feb. 7 meeting, Stancil told the Board that the $34,966 purchase of the Dell servers “will allow for increased performance and capacity as our student population and demand for technical services continues to grow.”
“These will be paid for using ESSER funds,” she said.
Business Services Report
Liz Harlow, Chief Financial Officer for Oconee County Schools, in her Business Services Report to the Board on Monday, reported that the school system has spent or encumbered $1,864,545 of the $3,187,781 in budgeted ESSER III Funds as of Jan. 31.
|Screen Shot Of Harlow Before Board 2/14/2020|
ESSER III Funds come from the American Rescue Plan, the third round of federal funding for Education Stabilization in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her report to the Board at its retreat on Jan. 19, Harlow had listed $1,716,438 as Expended to Date from ESSER III.
Of that amount, $8,692 (0.5 percent) was for Disinfectant Spray and Equipment, $118,232 (6.9 percent) was for Counseling/Social Services, and $183,094 (10.7 percent) was for Learning Recovery.
Oconee County Schools spent $986,635 (57.5 percent) for Technology, $393,818 (22.9 percent) for School Buses, and $25,967 (1.5 percent) for Classroom Supplies, according to a chart Harlow presented to the Board, and which I received through an open records request.
In that report, Harlow listed $3,342,033 as the Total Allocation of ESSER III funds, but the report Harlow gave the Board on Monday used a figure of $3,187,781 as Budgeted ESSER III Funds.
Back in June of last year, a report from Saranna Charping, then Chief Financial Officer, and Harlow, listed $3,339,628 as ESSER III allocated funds to Oconee County Schools.
I have not been able to get Harlow or Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, Director of Communications for Oconee County Schools, to explain the discrepancies in these numbers.
Other Financial Reports
At the meeting on Monday, Harlow reported that ad valorem tax collections are more than $1.6 million less than budgeted.
Burgess asked Harlow if she expected that deficit to be erased.
Harlow said that the system had budgeted for a 7.61 percent growth in ad valorem taxes, and the actual growth in the tax digest was 5.59 percent.
The result, she said, likely will be a $740,000 deficit in the budget.
Harlow also reported that sales tax revenues are running ahead of projection, and Oconee County Schools collected $1 million more in calendar hear 2021 than in 2020 from ELOST.
Collections in December of 2021 were 14.2 percent higher than in December of 2020, and collections in November had been 21.0 percent higher than a year earlier, according to the report that Harlow presented on Monday.
Harlow also reported that the account balance for the current ELOST, which runs through the end of this year, is $13.3 million, with remaining debt payments due of $12.3 million.
Oconee County Schools has spent $3.6 million to date from ELOST VI, approved by voters last March, Harlow said. Collection will not begin until next year, but bond sales have resulted in $43.0 in revenue.
At the Feb. 7 work session, Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities, told the Board that 75 percent of the brickwork is complete on the 10-classroom addition to Colham Ferry Elementary School.
|Dove Creek Middle School Construction Site|
Picture Included In Report To Board 2/7/2022
Ricketson said that work on the eight-classroom addition to High Shoals Elementary School has been on hold because of a delay in delivery of the steel for the project.
Richetson said he expects delivery by the end of the month and that the project remains on schedule for completion before the beginning of next school year.
Grubbing and erosion control work continues at Dove Creek Middle School, he said, and he expects grading to begin soon.
Request for Proposals for renovation of Oconee County Primary School was posted on Feb. 3, he said, with a due date of March 3.
In executive session following the Feb. 7 work session, the Board approved personnel changes, including the retirement of Claire Buck as Chief Academic Officer as of April 29 and the naming of Stancil as her replacement, effective May 2.
No citizens spoke at the Regular Meeting of the Board on Monday, the only opportunity for citizens to address the Board.
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