​School Board Receives Favorable Report on Budget Request

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 10 meeting of the Franklin County School Board, Franklin County Deputy Director of Finance Cindy Latham told the board the County Finance Committee will recommend the county commission “keep the property tax rate where it is currently.” If the commission agrees, the school system will come within $16,000 of receiving the full amount requested in the 2017–18 budget.
Because property values have increased, keeping the tax rate the same will generate an additional $2 million in property tax revenue. The state had recommended decreasing the rate, which would have kept the amount of revenue generated the same.
“I thought it went really well,” said new Director of Schools Stanley Bean, citing concerns about drawing down the fund balance held in reserve if the school system did not receive an additional $842,000 in property tax revenue for the 2017–18 school year.
The commission votes on the property tax recommendation July 17. If approved, the commission must give public notice by publishing the decision in the local newspaper for 10 days. The commission is expected to vote on the full budget July 31.
Revisiting a request presented in June for approval of purchasing a Jumbotron to replace the storm-damaged scoreboard at Franklin County High School, Bean said school attorney Chuck Cagel expressed concerns about insuring the Jumbotron, since Coca-Cola would retain ownership. Coca-Cola subsequently agreed to a revised contract transferring ownership to the school system.
The board approved Bean’s request to authorize the revised contract with Coca Cola. Five sponsors have pledged $150,000 to cover the cost of the Jumbotron. There will be no expense to the school system.
The board approved 15 of 16 policy changes recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association.
Board member Lance Williams questioned a provision in the Interscholastic Athletics policy stipulating student athletes were not required to attend athletic events “if the event is on an official school holiday, observed day of worship, or religious holiday. The student’s parent or legal guardian shall notify the coach in writing three full school days prior to the event.”
“Is the three-day notice required?” Williams asked.
Echoing Williams’ concern, Sewanee school board representative Adam Tucker asked, “What’s the enforcement here if parents fail to notify the school.”
The board deferred the Interscholastic Athletics policy for further consideration.
Assistant Superintendant Linda Foster alerted the board to likely inequities resulting from the Testing Programs policy. The state gives school systems three options on how to convert raw test scores to numerical scores so standardized test results can count for a percentage of the final grade.
Depending on which method a school system uses, the final grade could reflect as much as two numerical points difference. “This will cause great inequities,” Foster said.
The policy also gives school systems the option of determining the standardized test’s weight in the final grade for the 2018–19 school year, citing a range of 15 percent, the current level, to 25 percent.
“I’d like to keep it at 15 percent,” said Tucker, explaining the greater the test’s weight, the less discretion teachers had in evaluating students.
Board member Christine Hopkins concurred. “A lot of people don’t test well.”
“Standardized testing and classroom performance are two different things,” agreed board member Chris Guess.
The board also approved the Code of Behavior for the 2017–18 school year.
“This is very much like what you approved before,” said Foster. She noted two changes.
The 2017–18 code stipulates the school system must respond to school bus related complaints within 24 hours and that the number to phone to report a complaint must be posted on the outside of school buses.
Also new, the 35-page policy, available only online, includes live links so parents can reference related topics. Parents are required to sign a form indicating they are aware of the policy and how to access it, Foster noted.
The board meets next on Monday, Aug. 7.