Superintendent briefs board on upcoming semester

DeKalb County Board of Education heard an update last Thursday on a wide range of topics from DeKalb County Superintendent Jason Barnett.

“We made it through the fall semester,” said Barnett. “We are really proud of the work that went into making the fall semester a success. There were some challenging times and a lot of hard times but we had a good semester.”

Barnett said moving forward with the spring semester, although it will come with a new set of challenges, they are excited to have made it this far.

“We have assessments coming up, a legislative session that’s going to determine funding for us on a state level, graduations and proms,” he said. “We are going to face those with careful consideration and decision making to the best of our ability.”

During the Thursday nights work session, Barnett touched on the following topics of interest:

• education budget

• Advancement Technology Funds

• Alabama Broadband Connectivity Extension

• county-wide security camera upgrade

• CARES Act funds

• COVID-19 vaccines for educators

Barnett said state legislators will begin meeting in Montgomery the first week of February to discuss the education budget.

Although the county saw an impact from the middle of March in 2020, he said there was a good increase in receipts.

“November through February were record-breaking months in terms of revenue and receipts,” said Barnett. “By all accounts, I believe we are going to have a good budget.”

Last year the county received half of its Advancement Technology Funds for security and technology and the rest would be disbursed accordingly.

Barnett announced the extension of the Alabama Broadband Connectivity (ABC) program initially set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, that provided internet vouchers to help cover equipment and service costs for eligible households' high-speed internet services.

“Students who benefited from this and were able to get sign-up will have the opportunity to continue those services through the rest of this school year,” he said.

Barnett said some students who were eligible lived in areas where a provider didn’t serve their house.

“It’s not a full-proof program but it really did provide a lot and Farmers [Telecommunications Cooperative] have worked very diligently to try and get as much as they could do,” he said. “Farmers have been a great partner and I thank them for all they do.”

Barnett also discussed a county-wide security camera upgrade for all campuses, with expenses coming from their ATF funds allocated for technology and security.

“One thing that we’ve had over the years is we are always having to maintain and work on issues with cameras throughout our campuses,” he said. “Every school seems to have a different system.”

Barnett said they are working on a proposal that involves introducing the Verada Camera System, a hybrid solution to scale security and simplify management.

“It’s going to be the same across every campus and we will be able to have a centralized hub for all campuses,” he said. “Through our insight tool if we were to have an issue or incident of an intruder and the police had to respond they can immediately gain access through our camera system as they are approaching campus to see where the intruder may be, glass lines, power and know what they are coming into.”

Before the end of 2020, Congress approved the Appropriations Act's continuation for the fiscal year of 2021. As a result, Barnett said there would be additional rounds of funds coming.

He said the Coronavirus Relief Funds they received during the summer of 2020 had to be spent by Dec. 31, 2020, and it was.

“$1.2 million of that was for remote learning and technology, including the purchasing of our Chromebooks,” said Barnett. “$839,000 of that went towards health and wellness from which we funded a couple of school nurses, equipment and sanitation supplies.”

Currently, the county has its Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GEER) and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, which have different expenditures allowance that needs to be spent by Sept. of 2022.

GEER funds include academic support, Wi-Fi and after-school programs, among other allowed items. The ESSER funds include sanitation equipment supplies, instructional software, school nurses and personal protective equipment.

“The first round of our GEER money was $48 million and the second round is approximately $67 million,” Barnett said. “The ESSER money was original $216 million and the second round is approximately $899 million.”

Barnett said all funds have strike specific and strenuous requirements for the use of the funds.

“When you’re dealing with the federal government, you have to meet their requirements and you can’t deviate from it,” he said. “For our audit this year, we know our federal CARES Act money is something they are going to focus on.”

Barnett also touched on information he learned after a webinar with Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris regarding the COVID-19 vaccines for educators.

He said officials are hoping the B round of the vaccines for educators and other emergency workers will be available by the end of February or the first of March. Specifics regarding distribution are still in the works and information will be provided as it becomes available.

The board also:

• approved the school’s financial statements/general fund bank reconciliation and local school fund balance, bill and accounts

• approved the early graduation of Audrey Brundage of Ider High School.

• approved the on the job injury of Constance Bowman - CNP worker at Geraldine High School - 0 days.

• approved the retirement/resignations of Paul Larry Laney - bus driver - Valley Head High School - retirement - 1/1/21, Jonathan Ty Cole - secondary social sciences teacher - Crossville High School - resignation - 12/19/20, Diana Brown - ESL tutor - Crossville Middle School - contract termination - 1/5/21 and Arhely Canales Musino - itinerant Migrant Home Liaison - District - 12/1/20

• approved the leave of absence of Macy Cole - elementary teacher - Crossville Elementary School - 1/11/21-2/22/21, Teresa Ann Word - Elementary Teacher - Crossville Elementary School - 11/2/20-12/18/20 (Extension from 11/30/20), Heather Beritiech - Elementary Teacher - Crossville Middle School - 1/19/21-2/16/21, Tobey Hicks - Secondary Science Teacher - Crossville High School - 1/4/21-2/16/21, Karen Boyd - Bus Driver - Plainview High School - 1/4/21-3/1/21, Lauren Paige Phillips - Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher - Fyffe High School - 2/12/21-4/28/21 and Regeania Dickerson - Special Education Teacher - Collinsville High School 2/16/21-5/27/21

• approved the transfers of Eryn Thrash - child nutrition program secretary to assistant to the child nutrition program supervisor at the Central Office (2020-253) (effective 1/4/21) and Alicia Satterfield - itinerant special education teacher at Geraldine High School to itinerant psychometrist at the Annex (2020-262) (effective 1/4/21)

• approved the certified placement (All placements are made pending a background review meeting suitability criteria and negative, pre-employment drug screen and appropriate certification): Lindsey Higdon - elementary teacher (1/4/21-5/27/21) - Ider High School (2020-260), Ethan Turbyfill - secondary social sciences teacher - Geraldine High School (2020-260-1), Rachel Johnson - itinerant special education teacher - Geraldine High School (2020-263) (effective 1/4/21) and William Holter - secondary social sciences teacher - Crossville High School (2020-264),

• approved the support placement of Cary Dewayne Hearn - bus driver - Crossville Elementary School (2020-259) (effective 1/11/21) and Amy Thomas - pre-K auxiliary - Plainview High School (2020-266)

• approved the following volunteer coach: Anthony Blevins - baseball at Ider High School

• approved the following contracts: Katelyn Freeman - homebound - IDEA B, Margaret Brown - clerical help - Local, Alex Thomas - student technician - Local and Sharon Miller - intervention teacher - Ruhama Jr. High School

• approved the following superintendent’s recommendations, comments and reports:

– The supplement from the Fyffe Athletic Club to Paul Benefield in the amount of $10,000.

– The continuation of Families’ First Coronavirus Relief Act through March 31, 2021. The act provided employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons.

– The continuation of Remote Work Application through March 31, 2021.

“Under the benefits you have 10 days that you were able to use, the continuation doesn’t increase any benefits but it does allow benefits to continue,” said Barnett.

– Provided for the 2021-2022 DeKalb County Schools Calendar for the boards consideration.

– The board granted superintendent permission to move forward with placements, pending board approval.

The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 18, 2021 with the regular meeting at 5 p.m. and work session at 4:30 p.m. in the meeting room of the Facilities Building.

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