Board still dealing with Curtis' era

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Members of the Marshall County School Board are still dealing with the effects of decisions made by former director Stan Curtis.

While other people enjoyed a morning at home, the school board gathered at Central Office at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for a special called meeting. Curtis agreed that the schools' maintenance department would add two employees, and perform the maintenance on the County buildings as well. Now the 60-day trial period is over, and the County commissioners want to hear the school board's opinion on whether the arrangement should continue.

At the special called meeting, the board heard recommendations from the maintenance committee, which met Thursday evening, as well as remarks from their attorney, Sam Jackson of Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop P.C. A joint meeting with the County's committee is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21, ahead of the County commission's monthly meeting on Monday, Jan. 25.

After the special called meeting, the board went into executive session with Jackson. They discussed complaints against the Marshall County school system, including complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, among other legal problems that started during Curtis' time in office.

The board also sought advice on a matter brought to their attention at last week's January board meeting. A student was zero-toleranced out of Marshall County High School and put in alternative school in August 2009. The boy's father addressed the board, saying that his son is falling behind in his studies, and there is no documentation of the parents' discussions with Curtis, that, the father claims, promised an early return to regular classes at MCHS.

"We'll have to put it aside until we get legal advice," said board chairman Mike Keny.

In other business at the school board meeting, Colin Beatty reported from the Marshall County Education Association, representing the teachers.

Beatty told the board that certified teachers were unwilling to work as substitute teachers for the pay that is offered - $54 per day. Beatty pointed out that certified substitutes should be used if possible, because if less qualified teachers are in the classroom for an extended period of time the pupils' test scores can drop.

Board member Curt Denton reported that an advanced English teacher at Cornersville High School is going on maternity leave, and the certified English teacher who could take her place won't work for $54 a day.

"It's going to affect the students," Denton pointed out.

The teacher recruitment committee had met before the board meeting, and resolved to try to get more student teachers from local colleges with teacher-training programs, with the hope of recruiting these students as full-time teachers when they graduate.

The second part of Beatty's MCEA report was about technology, and got a response from technology director Suzanne Ingram.

Beatty said teachers were asking for at least one staff member per school who could install programs and fix minor problems.

"The attorney advised us not to allow teachers to install software," Ingram said. "We reserve that to the technology department for liability purposes. We're just trying to keep this district in compliance.

"Colin, if you would call and talk to me about this we would not have these problems," Ingram added. "If you will be patient and allow us to finish (with wiring the schools) you will be happy with what we're doing."

"We're asking for one faculty member in a building to install software that you authorize," Beatty said.

"Teachers are already overburdened," Ingram countered. "We have five board members who were not here at the start of technology. We would like to bring them up to speed."

"It's two different issues," summarized board member Craig Michael. "Overall implementation, and day-to-day frustration on the user end."

The technology/curriculum committee is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, and Michael urged all board members, not just the committee members, to attend.