BOE votes to allow non–resident students at MCHS
By Kathryn Purcell
After allowing for time for public comment on the issue, the Morgan County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to adopt a policy that will allow out-of-county residents to attend Morgan County High School beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.
The policy, first visited at last month's Board of Education meeting, will allow for 25 to 30 non-resident students to enroll at the school, as the class of rising ninth graders is about 40 students fewer than in past school years while as many as 14 non-resident students, who enrolled at Morgan County High School during the previous open enrollment period closed three to four years ago, graduated last month.
Superintendent Stan DeJarnett told the Board that he'd only received one comment in the past month, from a Madison real estate agent concerned with the effect open enrollment would have on home sales in Morgan County as well as increasing the proposed tuition cost for non-resident students.
The tuition cost for non-resident students is determined by law, according to DeJarnett.
"Non-resident tuition is calculated as prescribed in Georgia law," DeJarnett said. "You take the previous year's local revenue, the money collected from local property taxes, deduct the five mil share and divide the remainder by the number of full-time equivalent students."
Based on that calculation, tuition for non-resident students will cost $2,635 per student per year.
"That's a good bit more than we've charged in the past, but...it's still a bargain," DeJarnett said.
Also in his report, DeJarnett informed the Board that the Morgan County Board of Commissioners asked for money for compensation of school resource officers.
"In the past we had budgeted some supplements," DeJarnett said, in a phone interview. "We budget a small supplement to help with compensation for school resource officers...For three or four years, we were never billed. When we talked about adding a third school resource officer, it came to their [the Board of Commissioners] attention...We didn't notice it either."
In total, the "good faith settlement," DeJarnett said, comes to over $29,000 for the past six years.
In the future, the Board will split the salary cost of the school resource officers with the Board of Commissioners.
Updating the Board on progress in gathering information on tax exemptions for senior citizens, an issue brought before the Board by Morgan County resident Lance Pailer earlier this year, DeJarnett expressed that he was in contact with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI).
"I think we're the first Board [of Education] to request this sort of information," DeJarnett said, in regards to the pace at which the GBPI staff is working to gather the data.
According to DeJarnett, these kinds of requests typically come when property taxes or land values rise.
"Our request was 'What are other boards of education doing, and how are they doing it?'" DeJarnett said, in a phone interview. "'How many boards of education in this state are doing anything with a senior citizen partial or full exemption of some sort and how are they doing it?'"
The Board also has questions about the tax burden, should senior citizen be exempted.
"If senior citizens are exempted from paying school tax, that shifts the tax burden to someone else," DeJarnett said. "The [tax] assessors can help us with where the burden would be shifted and how much it would be."
In other news, DeJarnett shared with the Board the results of a study, "The Local Government Fiscal Impacts of Land Uses in Morgan County," requested and authorized by the Board of Commissioners.
DeJarnett also asked the Board to consider allowing early release days on Tuesday, September 30 and Friday, February 13, 2009 for professional development. Early release days mean Morgan County schools would dismiss students at noon.
Part of the Financial Report for last month, the Board's operating fund began with almost $2 million. Total receipts brought in more than $2.1 million and a CD deposit added $3 million more to the Board's balance, while almost $3 million in total expenditures and $2 million being transferred to Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) brought the ending balance for the month of May to over $2.1 million.
ELOST began last month with a balance of more than $2,000. After total receipts of almost $357,000 and the $2 million transfer from the operating fund, and with a deduction of more than $527,000 in total expenditures, the ELOST ending balance came to more than $1.8 million.
"We've got one month left, and we're still under-budget," DeJarnett said.
Phyllis Martin, director of School Nutrition, addressed the Board about a need for an increase in the price of school meals.
"I've spoken to most vendors," Martin said. "They've told us to expect a 15 to 20 percent rise in food costs."
Citing the fact that school meal prices haven't been raised in Morgan County in five years, Martin proposed a 25-cent increase on all meals except, of course, free and reduced lunch.
An 15 percent increase in the cost of purchased food and supplies amounts to $94,000, while a 20 percent increase amounts to more than $125,000, according to information provided. With the 25-cent increase in school meals, the total increase in revenue comes to almost $67,000.
"The $.25 meal price increase does not cover the entire projected increase in cost of food and supplies," according to documents provided at the Board meeting. "The remainder of the cost will be covered by an increase in the meal reimbursement rate and non-reimbursable sales at the school level."
Documents went on to state that labor in Morgan County schools' cafeterias will be cut whenever possible, in an effort to keep costs down.
In his report, Assistant Superintendent Ralph Bennett informed the Board that preliminary Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) results were in, and that Morgan County's results mirrored that of the state's in Georgia Performance Standards (GPS)-based tests, changed from previous Quality Core Curriculum (QCC)-based tests.
"Looking at preliminary calculations, I'm going to report growth in almost all areas, grades one through eight," Bennett said.
According to Bennett, the state Department of Education Testing Division presented projected results to the state Board of Education before testing in anticipation of what results may be. The Testing Division projected that 61 percent of third graders in the state, 64 percent of fourth graders, 58 percent of fifth graders and 48 percent of eighth graders would meet or exceed standards.
"Our students exceeded the state's expectations on how we'd do on GPS-based tests," DeJarnett said.
Bennett continued by updating the Board on the sixth- and seventh-grade CRCT social studies test invalidated by State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox.
"It was invalidated because of...a misalignment between the curriculum and the test," Bennett said.
According to Bennett, the state Department of Education has set up a committee of educators from across the state to re-work both the curriculum and the test.
Bennett also reported to the Board the results of a Parent and Teacher Survey, which was distributed earlier this school year. Half of the Morgan County schools' teachers as well as a small number of parents participated in the survey, according to Bennett. Both teachers and parents indicated that discipline, among other items, was one of their top concerns.
"The enforcement of discipline must be changed," Board member Dave Belton said. "We have great schools now. If we had better discipline, we'd have amazing schools."
Also, Morgan County High School Math Department Head, and teacher, Mark Argo addressed the Board as to the need for new Math I textbooks. Sharing the results of the Department's search, Argo informed the Board that he felt the best option was actually a Math I packet from Carnegie Learning.
"The company has taken the Georgia [math] curriculum and adapted materials to fit the Georgia curriculum," Argo said. "It's the only text on the market we could find that had the entire Georgia curriculum in it."
In his report, Director of Operations Bob Monk told the Board that the new Morgan County High School gymnasium is currently on schedule and is slated to be finished at the end of next month.
In her report, Assistant Superintendent Sarah Burbach informed the Board that a total of 3,241 students were enrolled in Morgan County schools as of the end of last month.