On Monday, the Macon County school board approved the implementation of a new online Drivers Education program.
“Basically the state is not providing us enough funds to be able to have driver’s education as we have had it in the past,” said Dan Moore, Macon County School Director of Personnel. In light of the budgetary shortfall faced by all county and state departments this fiscal year, he proposed a new alternative to the one costly class.
Whereas the county was previously allotted $235 per graduating eighth grader for driving classes, it will now receive $198.66. Moore said that the county is losing between $15-17,000 from last year’s allotment. As provided by the General Assembly this year, the school system will be allowed to implement a minimal fee not exceeding $45 per student for every class.
This year, Moore continued, the county school system will receive $77,279. “Typically, we receive $92-$93,000, and we request some more at the end of the school year in order to make up for problems that we have with the number of kids and being able to get them driven.”
“Our problem is we’re going to have a shortfall,” said Moore, proposing to offer students the written portion of the driver’s education class online, in order to cut back on expenses. He explained that the program has been implemented in other school districts throughout the state and the state of Georgia. “It would be self-paced,” he said. “Each child would progress through the program. If they do not pass a specific component then they go back through until they do master it, and then they move on.”
The class, Moore added, can take anywhere between 20 and 40 hours from school or at home, and would only call for a fee of $12 per student. The overall cost to the district would be approximately $4,668, according to the projected 389 rising eighth graders.
“It would be a good thing,” said Moore. “I feel like online classes are coming. They’re in the future–we’re going to see more online classes, both at the secondary and post-secondary level, I believe.”
At this time, there will be no fee for students entering the driver’s education course, as the board voted to allocate more than $22,000 for the course.
RIF policy approved
Acting on recently passed state legislation requiring the changes, the school board has approved a new Reduction In Force (RIF) policy that no longer allows the district to simply use the criteria of seniority when making future decisions about lay-offs.
“This is one of those policies that you put in place and hope you never have to use,” said School Board Attorney John F. Henning Jr., noting that the board has never had to implement its preexisting policy which held basically that “the first one in is the first one out.”
The new policy will now establish an “orderly procedure” for laying off licensed school employees. Such a reduction in force will be proposed at the discretion of the superintendent to the board. The proposal will include the grounds for the reduction, the targeted positions and the background information, data and rationale for the recommendation.
At that point, the board will review the recommendations to determine whether they lay off the said employees or reduce their terms of employment. Any reduction made, according to the policy, can occur on a “system-wide, department, program, service or school basis, or otherwise.”
But now, several primary considerations will be made by the superintendent and the board before a RIF is implemented. Performance ratings, areas of licensure, degree of qualification, program enrollment, service in extra duty positions and ability to fill such positions, length of service (with high priority given to service in the school system), degree level and status as part-time or return-to-work employee.
Henning maintained that some preference can be given to employees in specific fields, however the procedure of the policy must be followed.
FHS cheerleader fundraiser shutdown
Jennifer Turner-Lynn has been the FHS varsity cheerleading coach for 12 years, and after taking the proper precautions to hold a fundraiser in Highlands on June 4, she was given the word to pull the plug on the event in the middle of the team’s car wash at First Citizens Bank.
Turner-Lynn said that before holding the event, she had received the go-ahead to hold the carwash from the bank, as there were no other teams from the town holding a similar event at that time or date. She said that she had even went as far as clearing their endeavor with the Highlands School sports department as a professional courtesy, in which case she was given clearance. “I do not like to step on toes. I do not like to cause controversy,” she said.
But after holding the carwash for less than an hour, Turner-Lynn was contacted by the FHS athletic director.
“I was a little suprised on June 4 when I received a call from our athletic director indicating that we need to stop our fundraiser immediately,” she said. “I asked him why we needed to stop our fundraiser and he said that it was a directive from central office and that they had received a complaint from a Highlands community member... That made me look very unprofessional.”
Turner-Lynn said that it is not the intention of the FHS Cheer team to usurp funds from the Highlands community for a cheerleading team in Franklin. “I am asking that we receive something in writing that very clearly states what our process is and what we’re supposed to put on our prior approvals,” she said, asking for clarification on the fundraising policy and the specifics of the policy.
After a brief discussion, the board decided not to change the current fundraising policy. “She did everything by the book,” board member Gary Shields later said of how Turner-Lynn had handled the situation. He added that he believed the policy should not make any territorial provisions.