School Board Fails to Approve Funding for Traffic Control in School Zones

November 11, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education is divided on whether to join the City of Smithville and the DeKalb County Commission in allocating funds for the hiring of two people to direct traffic in the school zones at Northside Elementary and at DeKalb County High School.

During Thursday night's school board meeting, third district member Kenny Rhody made a motion to appropriate a third of the cost, $3,000, just as the city and county have done. And if the money is not all spent this school year, the rest could be rolled over to the next school year. First district member John David Foutch seconded the motion. But during a roll call vote, Foutch, Fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, and Second district member and Board Chairman, Charles Robinson voted against it. Rhody, Sixth district member Bruce Parsley, and Fourth district member Billy Miller, voted in favor of making the $3,000 appropriation. Seventh district member Johnny Lattimore was absent. Since the measure did not receive the required four votes needed for passage, the motion failed on a 3 to 3 tie vote.

Last month, Lattimore made a motion that a school board committee be appointed to meet with county and city officials to discuss the issue. Chairman Robinson appointed board members Miller and Rhody to join him on that committee.

During Thursday night's meeting, Robinson updated the board on what transpired at that committee meeting. "We met with the county commission, along with Mr. (Mark) Willoughby during their workshop held on October 21st. (Police) Chief (Randy) Caplinger represented the City of Smithville. Basically what we were told was that they wanted our money but they didn't want to have anything to do with hiring, training, or conducting traffic control at the schools."

"After some discussion, County Mayor (Mike) Foster reported that the county would hire and train personnel and it was suggested that for auditing purposes for the school system to create a paper trail, that a contract or memorandum of understanding be prepared by the county attorney on how our share of funding would be documented to satisfy our auditing issues. At that time, the amount agreed to was $3,000 from each the county government, city government, and the board of education.", said Robinson

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby added that "At that meeting, there was not a concrete figure as far as a price that would be paid (to the traffic control officers), possibly $10.00 per hour to $15.00 per hour, so I don't know if that has been worked out. Three thousand dollars could be a changing dollar amount. I would think as far as this year goes, since we're almost at Thanksgiving time, that this year it will not be $3,000, even if they started tomorrow. I don't know if they have the people trained yet in order to accomplish this goal or not."

Evins said he believes the school system should not be in the law enforcement business. "We've never been in the business of directing traffic. I just don't see that this is a school issue. With our portion of the county property taxes, I think in this budget it's about $2.1 million dollars and while school transportation is not required by the state of Tennessee, we provide that out of county funds, which is about three quarters of a million dollars each year. Plus another $250,000 for three new buses as we rotate them in, so we're spending about a million dollars on transportation in getting two thousand out of three thousand kids back and forth to school. We're already spending nearly half of our county tax money on transportation. But if it takes it, put $3,000 in there and go with it, but I think we ought to re-visit it. We need to be buying microscopes, instead of investing in radar equipment."

Willoughby replied "I agree. I have always been of the belief that educating children on our property was our business that we need to take care of . That is our priority. Roads is not our responsibility although we want safety for all kids. But since this has gone on so long and we have not been able to get it accomplished by other people, hopefully by all three organizations going together, we can have a safer area for people pulling in and out."

Evins then asked, "Are they (officers) going to write citations? I understand they've written 40 plus citations. Where is that money going?

Parsley inquired further, "Do we get a third (of the money) from citations written in the school zones, if we're responsible for it (traffic control)?"

Willoughby responded, "There was some discussion about what would happen in school zones if there was an accident, would we be responsible? Unless our buses are involved, that school zone is like any other part of the road, we wouldn't have any more responsibility because it's a school zone. It's the same responsibility there would be if we were not in a school zone and there was an accident."

Foutch said "traffic control is not a function of the board of education."

Kindergarten students will have to attend school for a full day, just like all other students, starting in January.

The board of education approved the change Thursday night.

Currently kindergarten students may attend for a full day, or a half of a day. Parents have that option.

But Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K to 6th grade, said she recently e-mailed several school systems in surrounding counties inquiring about their policy concerning all day kindergarten. According to Burklow, she received responses from thirteen county school systems and "all of them are a full day kindergarten and have been for several years."

"The research shows that our teachers will have more time to dedicate to math, science, and social studies in a full day time period, where now our focus is on reading. We will be able to have our babies in our classrooms longer to prepare them academically for first, second grade, and all the way through", said Burklow.

She added that only a small percentage of kindergarten students leave early now anyway. Most of them already remain in the classroom all day.

Meanwhile in other business, the board of education Thursday night adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.

The resolution states as follows:

Whereas, Mr. Willoughby has served as director of schools for our school system for four years; and,

Whereas, he has consistently demonstrated effective leadership and made decisions with integrity and honesty; and,

Whereas, he has created budgets for our district and to provide the resources necessary for our schools to operate a quality educational program; and,

Whereas, he provides support for the programs at the schools, helping students and faculty to grow and develop academically and socially; and,

Whereas, he has built support within the community for our school system;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the Board of Education officially recognizes the services of Mr. Willoughby to the students of DeKalb County and extends its appreciation for his work to enhance the learning environment of the students in our district;

Be it further resolved, that the DeKalb County Board of Education hereby declares November 18th, 2010 as Director of Schools Appreciation Day in DeKalb County.

Be it further resolved, that each school principal takes necessary measures to implement the Employee Appreciation Program in their school and recognize our director this month;

Be if further resolved, that this resolution of appreciation be recorded and spread across the minutes of the Board of Education on this 11th day of November, 2010.

In other business, Director Willoughby released his monthly report on personnel.

Kristen Van Vranken, Speech Teacher, new position

Kelly Daniels, certified substitute teacher, transferred to a full-time teaching position at DCHS

Jeff Poteete, substitute bus driver

Leave of Absence:
Tiffany Wheatley, teacher at SES, leave as requested.

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