Lester remains school chair

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Hamilton accepts nomination as vice-chair

By Brandon Mattingly

Washington County School Board members unanimously approved Patsy Lester to remain the board’s chair at a work session earlier this month, while Nora Hatton asked to be replaced as vice-chair to focus more attention on other opportunities.

Board member Curtis Hamilton was chosen to assume the vice-chair position, which he accepted. Hamilton also accepted a role as the board’s representative on the local planning committee. Finance Director Judy Spalding remained treasurer for the school district, while board member Pat Clements retained his position as legislative liaison and Superintendent Robin Cochran kept her title as the official secretary.

Also approved was the schedule for the payment of salaries throughout the district (the middle and end of each month) and meeting dates and locations for 2014.

The board discussed a few other topics as well, including covering the cost of continuing the Early Edge program (part of the Gear Up grant).

The grant funded a position for half of the year at Washington County Middle School and North Washington Middle School, with funding ending after Christmas due to rising costs.

Students had already been scheduled for the course at each school this semester, and Curt Merrifield, the instructor of the Early Edge program at NWMS, offered to finish out the school year at a rate of $100 per day.

Merrifield also offered to take on the same role at WCMS until the end of the school year, spending half a day at each school with students.

Cochran said Merrifield told her that he’s made a connection with the students and wants to see the course through to the beginning of May.

“We didn’t fill the science consultant position for primary that we asked the board for because we hadn’t found applicants,” Cochran pointed out. “That was money that Judy (Spalding) had put aside knowing that we were looking at doing that. This meets the request that both middle schools have made. We don’t get a lot of requests from our schools and they know it’s something that wouldn’t be continued in the future. They’re worried about re-doing all of their schedules. My recommendation is that we do this.”

The board unanimously agreed to approve Merrifield’s request.

In their first public meeting since the winter break, Cochran said the two-week furlough that was implemented for the first time throughout the district went “extremely well.” Clements said he’s heard a similar sentiment from those he’s spoken to.

“I asked a few people if they enjoyed their time off and they said, ‘Yes, this was the best thing you all have come up with,’” he said.

Though the furlough went smoothly, facilities in the school district weren’t unscathed by harsh weather conditions over the last month. A heavy rain on Dec. 19 caused flooding at Washington County High School, which was taken care of later that night.

A North Washington gym heating unit went down due to the cold, and blew a transformer upon being started back up. The motherboard of the unit also malfunctioned, leading to roughly $1,000 in repairs.

Also, a waste treatment plant froze up during the recent extreme cold and received maintenance.

District transportation director and head mechanic James “Pogo” Mann recently announced that he’ll be retiring at the end of January. No action has been taken on replacing Mann, but Cochran suggested allowing Bob Holderman to help with checking weather-impacted roads on school days and other responsibilities in the meantime.

Nutrition and physical activity report
A recent evaluation of Washington County’s nutrition and physical activity participation showed the district what it’s doing well and what areas need improvement.

- Lunch participation for Washington County schools was determined to be adequate for its size.

- All Washington County schools meet the target of providing students with at least one physical education course.

- All breading for school lunches will be whole grain in 2014-15.

- The district plans to improve communication with parents on decisions in regard to nutrition and physical education.

- The district will comply with lowered sodium requirements.

All board members were in attendance. The monthly school board meeting was held on Tuesday after press time. A rundown of the discussion will be available in next week’s issue of The Sun.