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Parent challenges Board of Education to improve school system

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Board of Education elected its officers, received news of a grant and a Golden Apple Award winner and was challenged by the parent of a former high school valedictorian to do better Thursday night.

The board also heard a report on the success of the county’s first team to enter an engineering event at the regular board meeting held at Fort Deposit Elementary.

Joe N. Pernell Sr., who had been away in the military for the past 10 years, told the board that one of his children, a student at Tuskegee University who was the valedictorian at Central High this past school year, was “told she had been short changed in the area of calculus from Lowndes County.”

He said she had to be tutored.

While Pernell said there was enough blame to go around, he said his point was “that there must be a change.”

In response to a comment from Board President Steve Foster, Pernell commended everyone, however, for the work that has been done.

Foster noted that there had been tremendous progress in Lowndes County over the past 15 years.

“We’re not where we want to be. We’re not where we’re going to be. But we’ve come a long way from where we were,” he said.

Board member Dr. Denise Davis-Maye said for the past 20 years the board has blamed parents, the parents have blamed the board, “but in the meantime our kids get to Tuskegee and struggle in calculus.”

She encouraged Pernell to engage other fathers of families.

“We have to figure another way to do it,” she said.

“Don’t let the buck just stop on the board because all of us are doing some great things whether it’s the teachers, whether it’s the principals, whether it’s the superintendent,” said Board member the Rev. Robert James Grant at the close of the meeting. “We’ve got one of the best superintendents in the state…”

“Those of us who know that the system is better than it was. Don’t let people keep saying that it’s not,” he said.

The board reelected Foster as its president and the Rev. Ben Davis as its vice president.

“In my opinion it’s not a big deal to be president of this board because it’s an outstanding board,” Foster said. “We know this school system has made a lot of progress in the last 10 years. And it’s because of y’all out there and the people in the classrooms.”

School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd announced that Lowndes County Schools will be among those sharing a National Science Foundation grant in the amount of $14 million for teacher professional development dealing with 3-D nano biology.

He announced that Calhoun teacher Shanitra Dees received a Golden Apple Award.

He also reported on the success of the Calhoun High School robot competition team, which recently competed in an engineering event held in Mobile.

The team participated in the Jubilee Best – Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology event held on Oct. 29 at the University of South Alabama Mitchell Center in Mobile and received an award.

Boyd said the team placed 18th out of 44 in exhibits, 25th out of 44 for a marketing presentation and 26th out of 44 for the overall BEST Award.

He said the students were given six weeks to turn raw materials into a marketing project. That included building a robot to pick up and deliver bugs from one location to a containment area.

Boyd noted that this was first time Lowndes County students participated in an engineering event.

The board approved the low bid of Paulk Construction Inc. for an air conditioning upgrade (four units) at the Central High School gymnasium in the amount of $140,373.

Other bids were received from Frasier-Ousley Construction in he amount of $143,800 and Zedot Construction in the amount of $143,000.

Boyd said the upgrade will be funded in part by a $100,000 grant. He said the old units will be auctioned in the summer.

Boyd said Lowndes County received an additional $10,000 from the state Department of Education for the Homeless children and youth program.

In other actions the board approved:

•Thursday night’s agenda.

•Minutes of the Oct. 20 meeting.

•Going into an executive session following which no decisions were made and no votes taken.

•Agreements between the board and architect Barganier Davis Sims Architects Associated regarding an electrical upgrades to a classroom building for Central Elementary and an air conditioning upgrade a the Central High School gymnasium.

•Contracts between the board and:
Springboard Education Foundation Inc. (employment of Lowndes Home Instruction for parents of preschool youngsters (HIPPY) personnel); The Alliance for Leadership in Education (Leadership Academy); Professional Development Services LLC (site visits and observations of administrators, Teacher Incentive Program); and Juenesse Y. Walton (grant writing services, Lowndes County Head Start Program).

•Contracts for supplemental service providers, select Calhoun and Central High students: All About Partners in Education LLC, Alpha Academy Tutorial Center, Appleton Learning, A to Z In-Home Tutoring LLC, Club Z! In-Home Tutoring and Educate Online Learning LLC.

•Continuous improvement plans: Calhoun High School, Central Elementary School, Central High School, Fort Deposit Elementary School, Hayneville Middle School, Jackson-Steele Elementary School and Lowndes County Middle School.

•Action items: English Language Learns Plan, Additional 2011-2012 Salary Schedule (bus aide), September 2011 financial statement for Lowndes County Head Start Program, Revenue and Expenditure Report, Financial Statement and Payroll Register, September 2011 based on reconciled bank statements, and personnel report.

The next meeting of the board of education will be held Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Central Office in Hayneville.