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Oktibbeha school board hears program overview


Bonnie Coblentz



School board officials heard a year''s worth of reports on programs and departments within the Oktibbeha County School District at Monday night''s meeting. 


Gale Cook, assistant superintendent of federal programs and operations, told the board of her division''s activities, which include compiling the calendar, overseeing safety drills, and handling the federal Title programs and funding. 


She is working to update the three-year school-wide plan last done in 2009. She told the board that as of early May, there were four children from East Elementary, four from East High and four from West High enrolled in the alternative education program at Overstreet School in the Starkville School District. 


Board member Melvin Harris asked about this program, and she said it costs about $114,000 to hold the 14 slots the school district buys each year in the alternative school. 


Candace Cooper, director of special services, told the board that 135 students, or 14 percent of the student population of 953, have disabilities. The state rate is almost 11 percent with disabilities. 


The Oktibbeha County School District has a black student population of 90 percent, compared to a 50 percent state population of black students. 


In her job, she is responsible for the gifted program as well as special education. She said the district has 12 full-time special education teachers and three full-time special education teacher assistants among other staff in this district department. 


She reviewed several goals the district has been given from the state. 


"I''ve been here eight years, and this is the first school year we have met all of our school goals," Cooper said. 


Charles Tillery, district transportation and maintenance director, spent much of his time in front of the board talking about the district''s energy savings plan it has with Johnson Controls. 


He fielded several questions from the board about thermostat accuracy, adjusting thermostats, after-hours building use and district energy savings. At the board''s request, he said he would create a logging system where notes can be made anytime a thermostat is manually taken off its programmed operation. 


He also spoke of the bus fleet and general maintenance needs such as roof repairs across the district. 


Jerome Smith, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, reported on data tams and advisory teams working in the district to allow schools and teachers to best meet individual student educational needs. He also spoke of efforts to promote the district''s vocational education programs. 


"We''re continuing to do very aggressive recruiting to get students in vocational programs," Smith said. 


He updated the board on the status of consultants hired to meeting professional development needs in the district, and efforts to get students to perform better on standardized testing. 


"One of our biggest problems is student motivation, not student preparation," Smith said. 


Darnell Boyd, director of child nutrition, reported on improvements to the health and nutrition of the meals the district serves. She said there are 12 employees in the four cafeterias in the district. The district has a 93 percent rate of students receiving free or reduced lunches. Just 7 percent of the students pay the full $1.75 for lunch. 


She took some heat from board president Curtis Snell when she reported that at one school, students were being allowed to purchase snacks from a vending machine less than an hour before lunch. State law prohibits this practice as it competes with lunch participation. 


Snell pushed her to tell what she is doing to address this issue. The board spoke of using a vending machine that automatically turns off and cannot be used during set times, such as school lunch time. 


The board did not take action on any of the reports, simply gathered the information in preparation for budget planning which is beginning for the 2011-2012 school year.




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