School board takes care of in-house business in 1st meeting of year

Griffin-Spalding County School Board member Zachery Holmes during Tuesday’s School Board meeting downtown. Holmes was voted to be the board’s chairman for the 2021 term. It’s the second time he has served the board in that capacity.

The Griffin-Spalding County School Board had a lot of house-cleaning chores to get to on Tuesday in its first scheduled meeting of the year.

One thing, however, that it did not get to was naming a new superintendent.

Less than five minutes into the meeting, outgoing board chairman Will Doss said, “We are going to table the announcement for the superintendent until the next meeting on Tuesday.”

Thereafter, the school board received Georgia School Board Association’s Exemplary Award Recognition. Interim Superintendent Dr. Donald Warren made the presentation to the board.

A few minutes later the board also voted and named longtime board member Zachery Holmes its chairman and Sue McDonal its vice-chair for the 2021 year. Doss, who has served on the board four years, has been the chairman the past two calendar years. It’s the second time Holmes has served in that capacity, the first coming in the term before Doss served as chairman.

With Holmes at the gavel, consent agenda items — including recommendations for central office administrators, principals and assistant principals for the 2021-22 school year — were voted on and accepted.

Central office administrators on the list included: Lashanda Acres, Anthony Aikens, LaCriessia Bearden, Ashley Crawford, Melvina Crawl, Anthony DiSario, Lonny Harper, Larry Jones, Rhonda Jones, Sara Jones, Charles, Kelley, Kiawana Kennedy, Melanie Lockett, Eleajah McElory, Shervette Miller-Payton, Norman Sauce, Pamela Seda, Tracy Sims, Melanie Stansell, Tiffany Taylor, Heather Toliver, Donald Warren, Robert Wheeler, Stacy Wilson and Tesha Woodard.

Principals on the list included Thiago Aleixo, Gloria Brodie, Amie Chambers, Naja Douglas, Dorothy English, Laura Ergle, Stephanie Evans, Gregory Gardner, Misty Garvin, Holly Harvil, Laura Jordan, Buford Kellogg, Melinda Langford, Renee Mallard, Tiffany Mitchell-Campbell, Joshua Pittman, Enrique Ralls, Julie Robinson, Seabrook Royal and Robert Steele.

The next business the board tended to was its action items, which included:

• The 2021 board of education meeting dates calendar, presented by interim Superintendent Dr. Donald Warren.

• The GSCS System calendar for the 2021-22, which was presented by Instructional Services Executive Director Sara Jones.

• And the paying of WHIE property taxes, presented by Doss and explained by GSCS Attorney Tim Shepherd.

All three were approved by a 5-0 vote.

The school board meeting dates this year include Feb. 2, March, 2, April 13, May 4, June 1, July 20, Aug. 3, Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 3 and Dec. 7 as well as the first meeting for 2022 on Jan. 4 when a new calendar will be adopted and ratified for 2022.

As for the GSCS System calendar, the system went with the Option A calendar as opposed to Amended Option B.

“Drafts have been proposed and an online survey was available for parents, teachers and other stakeholders to give input as the proposal was placed on first read with the BOE,” Jones wrote in the summary of an action memorandum presented to the board. “The results of the survey showed stakeholder feedback for Calendar A at 50.47% and Amended Calendar B at 49.53%.”

Various department heads downtown in the central office concurred with Calendar A by an 8-0 count before presenting it to the school board Tuesday night.

The only difference between the calendars — Calendar A’s post planning/professional learning ends on May 27, 2022 while the Amended Calendar B’s post planning/professional learning which ended on June 1, 2022, while Calendar A has four 10-hour days built into the Labor Day week in September as well as the MLK week in January to maintain the 40-hour work week and Amended Calendar B did not.

During the presentation and discussion items portion of Tuesday’s meeting, the following presentation was made:

• GSCS Essential Workers and Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL)-Local Extension, presented by Stephanie Dobbins.

Dobbins pointed out that educators qualify as “essential workers,” as per the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In the definition is included workers who support the education of pre-school, K-12 — including professors, teachers, teachers aids, special education and special needs teachers, ESOL teachers, para-educators, apprenticeship supervisors and specialists.

Also included are workers who provide services necessary to support educators and students, including but not limited to, administrators, administrative staff, IT specialists, media specialists, librarians, guidance counselors, school psychologists and other mental health professionals, school nurses and other health professionals and school safety personnel.

In addition, workers who support the transportation and operational needs of schools, including bus drivers, crossing guards, cafeteria workers, cleaning and maintenance workers, bus depot and maintenance workers and those who deliver food and supplies to school facilities.

The list concludes with workers who support the administration of school systems including school superintendents and their management and operational staff in addition to educators and operational staff facilitating and supporting distance learning.

Dobbins also pointed out that the federal mandate to provide sick leave expired as of Dec. 31, 2020.

In its place, the GSCS has the following policies:

• Benefits-eligible employees may use any remaining unused days of EPSL if an employee is unable to work for either of the following reasons — the employee’s own positive COVID-19 test or the employee provides a written diagnosis by a doctor indicating that the employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.

• ESPL-LE: Up to two weeks (80 hours, or a part-time employee’s two-week equivalent) of paid leave.

Essential worker status helps teachers and staff by:

• Not forcing them to use sick leave or personal leave to quarantine when asymptomatic and not positive.

• Can protect their earned income if they do not have a sufficient leave balance to cover and asymptomatic quarantine period.