School starts in Marshall County

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

By Karen Hall


The first full day of school in the county was also the day of the School Board's August meeting, and Schools Director Jackie Abernathy started the session by introducing some of the new administrators to board members.

She named Becky Hill, new principal at Oak Grove Elementary, transportation supervisor Randy Blackman, maintenance foreman Jeff Brock, and Marshall County High School principal John Bush, and assistant David Steely, among others. Jerrie Henry, who has been with the school system for many years is now employed as a social worker, based at Central Office.

"These folks have done a wonderful job of getting school started," said Abernathy. "Thank you for all that you do." Board members gave these hard working staff members a standing ovation.

The start of school has not been without problems, of course, especially traffic congestion at Oak Grove and Westhills. Abernathy herself spent some time in the street directing traffic, and assured board members, "We're working on it. We will get them ironed out."

She also praised Central Office staff for the good job they did with orientation for new teachers.

"We've got the best staff up here anybody could have," Abernathy exclaimed.

The opening enrollment of Marshall County schools was 5,417 students, Abernathy reported. This is "up a little bit" from last year, but the director said attendance the week after Labor Day would give a better picture of the real number of students for the year. As many as 60 high school seniors will graduate in December, thus reducing student population halfway through the year.

In other business, board members unanimously approved the maintenance committee's recommendation to hire Johnson & Bailey as architects for the new building program. Johnson & Bailey has "completed over 150 school projects in our 38-year firm history and continue to be one of Middle Tennessee's most prolific school designers," according to the letter from the company setting out the fees they will charge. These fees will all be below the state fee schedule, ranging from 3.95 to 5 percent, depending on the difficulty of the project. (The state standard fee is 5.5 percent.) Johnson & Bailey has worked in Marshall County before; in fact, they have been the architects on all the recent school building projects.

Also unanimously approved was the hiring of Stephen Ward & Associates, Inc. "Professional Roof Consultants" to assess and report on the roofs of all school buildings, recommend repairs and maintenance, and prepare a schedule for carrying these out. The charge will be 2.5 cents per square foot, and the preliminary report will take about two months to compile --"Provided it stops raining," said company representative Kevin Turner.

"It's a much better deal that what we talked about," said Deputy Director Jacob Sorrells. "I feel good about it."

"It's not to fix the roofs," clarified board member Donnie Moses. "It's to tell us what's wrong with them and make a plan to fix them."

"Yes," agreed Sorrells. "I think we need to get a long-term plan, and this is a start."

"Do we still have a bunch of leaks?" asked board member Ken Lilly.

"Yes, sir," Sorrells said.

The hydrostop coating which the maintenance department has been applying to school roofs has not entirely been stopping the leaks, and Abernathy said they would use up what they had, but not buy any more.

"It's good for some situations, but not ours," summarized board member Harvey Jones Jr.

Finally, Abernathy reported it was her understanding the County Commission was not going to vote on the school budget this month, because the county budget was not ready.

"Ours is fine," she said. "It's been approved by the county budget committee. They're not waiting on us.

"It needs to be approved by Oct. 1 or we lose BEP funding," she noted.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24, the day after the County Commission meets on Sept. 23.

The County Commission's August meeting is on Monday, Aug. 23.