The Sumter County School Board held its regular meeting on Thursday, April 14, 2022 in the boardroom at 100 Learning Lane. Superintendent Walter Knighton gave several data points for the BOE and the community to consider. He praised the schools for their efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID, as the data points to only minimal impact over the past three weeks. In total, only 38 students had to be quarantined. In the 2020-2021 school year, Americus-Sumter County High School reported growth of at least 25% in advanced placement students. Due to this reported growth, the Georgia Department of Education has designated the school as an Advanced Placement Expansion School. This news received a round of applause. Enrollment has risen from 3,580 to 3,643 and Knighton says he is “pleased and happy to see the numbers go up” and further thanks those who have trusted Sumter County Schools (SCS) to educate students. In an after-school tutoring program that began in February and is expected to continue through August, 818 students participated by being present and 33 participated virtually. The progress reports are complete and Knighton presented the ranking of these grades. Reading had a pass rate of 79%, English language arts had a pass rate of 79%, 74% passed math, and 78% passed science. Final grades in subjects will be determined using a report card. To ensure quality, the school observes classroom teaching. After observing 150 classes from January to April 2022, Knighton reports that 93% are implementing a strategy for students, 80% have clarified the learning goal, 89% are providing direct instruction, and 85% are maintaining clarity of instruction. ‘education.
The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) offers tests that indicate whether the student is below, at, or above grade level. While SCS reports the data it collects, the Georgia Department of Education also offers testing for all 159 Georgia counties. Knighton reported what the DOE found. In American literature, 68% of students met minimum grade level requirements. In biology, 62% of students achieved the objective. In algebra, 50% passed grade level and in history, 50% of students met the minimum requirements.
The BOE voted unanimously on several points. Sumter County Schools will continue to operate as a “strategic waiver” school. They also agreed to participate in a program that would offer support to identified students who would benefit from it. All financial reports have been approved. One of the data covered in the financial report is the ESPLOST tax, which is a sales tax that anyone in Sumter County pays when purchasing property. The tax amount is indicative of the amount of sales that occur with the county. ESPLOST also allows our BOE to raise funds without raising property taxes. Since it is not a property tax, but rather based on property sales, everyone, regardless of property type, contributes to the fund. In addition to not just burdening landlords, it also allows people outside the county to contribute to a fund that has a direct impact on our school system. For the month of March, approximately $400,000 was raised. The rolling average of collected ESPLOST is around $359,000. The ESPLOST money is intended to pay for the new high school. Two new policies were approved. As part of the real estate action, two buses were declared surplus.
In non-committee matters, the BOE has approved several contracts and memorandums of understanding. One was between the BOE and Ignite College and Career Academy, Payroll Development Authority, One Sumter, South Georgia Tech, Georgia Southwestern and the Chamber of Commerce. Another included Albany Area Primary Health as well as Head Start. Several tax incentives have been approved to include Governor Kemp’s initiative for teachers, an SCS incentive for substitute teachers and teachers providing tutoring supports. After the executive session, the BOE agreed to use the same insurance company to provide workers’ compensation insurance. Compensation claims had been the subject of previous board meetings as claims were high resulting in a high insurance policy. Rick Barnes reports complaints have gone down and hopes the safety culture is strengthening. Despite the decline in the number of claims, insurance increased by more than 6%.
After the executive session, the BOE approved staff recommendations to approve four retirements, 18 resignations, one rescinding of a job offer, five transfers, 17 hires, one long-term sublease and five furloughs families for medical reasons. The teaching and administrative recommendations 2022-23 were also approved.
This meeting and past meetings are archived on the Sumter County Schools Facebook page of the same name. BOE meetings are open to the public and accept public comments. They are located at the central office at 100 Learning Lane. They take place the first Monday and Thursday of the month. The next meeting will take place on May 2, 2022 at 6 p.m.