Two top leaders at Oconee County Schools, Chief Operations Officer Brock Toole and Director of Communications Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, will be leaving the system at the end of this month.
The Board of Education approved the separations for Toole and Jimenez after its usual executive session at the end of the regular meeting on Monday.
Board Chair Kim Argo said that “OCS appreciates the years of service by both Brock Toole and Anisa Jimenez.”
Since June of 2021, Oconee County Schools has seen turnover in three of Superintendent Jason Branch’s six cabinet positions.
North Oconee High School Principal Philip Brown also has taken the job of Superintendent in the Jackson County School System during that time period.
Toole is one of the partners in South Main Brewing, opening soon in Wire Park in Watkinsville.
Jimenez said she will begin work for a communications agency.
In other action on Monday, the Board accepted for discussion a slightly modified policy for public participation in Board meetings, awarded a bid of just less than $4 million for modifications at three schools, and received a wide range of financial reports.
Branch’s cabinet consists of Associate Superintendent Dallas LeDuff, Chief Technology Officer Ryan White, Chief Academic Officer Susan Stancil, Chief Human Resources Officer Brook Whitmire, Chief Finance Officer Liz Harlow, and Chief Operations Officer Toole.
|Organizational Chart From 6/21/2022 Meeting|
Board Of Education And Oconee County Mayors
Stancil was promoted from Director of Secondary Education on Feb. 7 to Chief Academic Officer effective May 2 to replace Claire Buck, whose separation was effective April 29.
Harlow moved from Director of Finance to Chief Financial Officer on Sept. 14 of last year to replace Saranna Charping, who stepped down effective June 30, 2021.
Brown’s separation as principal of North Oconee High School was approved on March 7 of this year and was effective on May 31. Keith Carter was appointed as replacement.
I wrote Argo via email on Thursday, saying “This is a lot of turnover in a short period of time at some key positions. Toole would seem to be a particularly big loss in the middle of the massive building program underway.”
“Do you have any concerns about these losses and about the difficulty of replacing Toole and Jimenez with the change early in the new school year?” I asked Argo.
“The 2022- 2023 school year is off to a tremendous start and Oconee County Schools will continue to successfully meet the needs of our students and community,” Argo wrote back.
“Several building projects are underway, including the construction of Dove Creek Middle School,” she continued. “Fred Ricketson, Director of Facilities, is in charge of all current construction projects.”
Public Participation Policy
The Board on Monday also voted to place on the table for public review and comment a revised policy for Public Participation in Board Meetings.
The policy has been changed to reflect the requirements within Senate Bill 588, passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in April.
The Bill requires that all meetings of local Boards of Education shall be open to the public except as otherwise provided by law.
It also stipulated that members of the public shall not be removed from such public meetings except for actual disruption and in accordance with rules adopted and published by the local Board of Education.
It also states that visual and sound recording shall be permitted at the Board of Education meetings.
The changes in the Oconee County Schools document now under review stipulates that “citizens are invited to address the Board “at all regular meetings at the time shown on the agenda and in accordance with procedures established by the Board or the Superintendent.”
The current document only says citizens are invited to address the Board “at appropriate times.”
Both the new and old policy states that comments to the Board “are to be brief.”
Chief Financial Officer Harlow, in her Federal Funds Report for June 30, indicated that Oconee County Schools in the last Fiscal Year spent $2,674,691 in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
|Screen Shot 9/19/2022 Board Meeting|
Burgess, Michael Ransom, Harlow (L-R)
These were unbudgeted monies that the school system used, among other things, for computers and school buses. These items originally were to be covered by local and state revenues.
Oconee County Schools had $211,034 in unspent ESSER funds going in to the current Fiscal Year, according to Harlow’s report.
Harlow’s August 31 Federal Funds Report showed only $36,663 of those monies unspent.
Harlow also provided the Board with the June 30 Year-To-Date Budget Report, showing figures that correspond with those in the FY 2022 General Fund Budget Amendment approved by the Board at its meeting in July.
That amendment showed the total revenue received by Oconee County Schools was $7.1 million more than originally budgeted.
Harlow also gave the Board the August Year-To-Date Budget Report.
“The fourth item is the budget report for August,” she said. “Revenues and expenditures are where you would expect a few months now into the Fiscal Year.”
Harlow told the Board that revenue from the Education Local Option Sales Tax for July were up by 11 percent from July of 2021.The amount received was $864,287, compared with $779,023 in July of 2021.
Revenues were up 8.7 percent in June and 11.8 percent in May, Harlow reported.
Total revenue from the tax, labeled ELOST V, which expires at the end of this year, is now $39.1 million, or just less than the estimated final collection of $39.9 million.
Total funding from ELOST V available as of the end of August is $11.8 million, Harlow reported, with $6.1 million still to be paid in the next calendar year on the $23.5 million in bonds sold before the tax revenue began flowing.
The Board already has sold just less than $43 million in bonds from ELOST VI, even though no revenue will be received until next year.
ELOST VI Report
Harlow gave the Board a report showing that $15.3 million already has been spent from ELOST VI budgeted revenue, including the bond sales.
Included is $3.7 million for classroom additions at Colham Ferry Elementary School and $3.2 million classroom additions at High Shoals Elementary School. These two additions opened for this school year.
The remaining $8.7 million spent is for the new Dove Creek Middle School, which is schedule to open next year. The total amount budgeted for the middle school is $39.6 million.
Oconee County Schools will need to make payments of $864,625 on those ELOST VI bonds in calendar year 2023, according to Harlow’s report, $3.1 million the following year, and nearly $6 million each of the next four years.
Total payments will be $46.6 million against the just less than $43 million borrowed through the sale of the bonds.
Harlow’s ELOST VI Report listed $6.6 million in General Fund revenue used to cover ELOST VI projects, and Board Member Tim Burgess asked her to break out that figure for the Board.
“Can you just give us a separate sheet (that) sort of shows how the General Funds in this ELOST VI accounting are kind of allocated?” Burgess asked. His was the only Board making comment or asking questions following Harlow’s nine reports.
“If the Board wishes,” Harlow responded, “I can do that.”
Oconee County Primary, Elementary, High School
The Board on Monday voted to accept a bid of $3,974,000 by Bowen & Watson Construction Company of Toccoa for modifications at Oconee County Primary, Oconee County Elementary, and Oconee County High schools.
Bowen & Watson was the low of three bidders for the project.
Ricketson told the Board at its work session on Sept. 12 that the bid includes reroofing the flat areas of the Primary School and Elementary School and the flat area of the horseshoe at Oconee County High School.
The contract also covers needed repairs to the metal roofs at all three facilities, Ricketson said. The contractors also will be adding new facades at Oconee Primary and Oconee Elementary.
Also included is a new freezer/cooler at Oconee Primary School, new air conditioning units in the 600 building at Oconee Elementary School, and a new monument sign for Oconee Elementary School, Ricketson said.
The estimated total project cost, which includes furniture, technology, and other items, is $4,633,970.
The project will be funded from the General Fund and from revenue from the Education Local Option Sales Tax. Branch did not say which ELOST would be used for the project.
Toole, Jimenez, And Video
The video below is on the Oconee County Schools web site.
Harlow made her financial report at 20:43 in the video.
No citizens addressed the Board.
The vote of the Board to go into executive session is at the very end of the video. The video does not include the action of the Board accepting the superintendent’s personnel report after the executive session.
I contacted both Toole and Jimenez by email after I was able to obtain the Personnel Recommendations on Thursday. It had been missing from the agenda and minutes of the meeting.
Toole never responded, but Jimenez did and said "I am excited to have the opportunity to work remotely for a communications agency."