Community Speaks Out at MCBOE Meeting
The community spoke out about concerns with both the Special Education and athletic departments during the regular monthly meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education on Thursday, December 14.
During public participation, a total of 5 individuals addressed the board, including Stacie Randolph, the parent of a special needs child within the school system, who spoke on her concerns and frustration with issues within the Department of Exceptional Learning over the past 3 years.
“I’m here tonight on behalf of the special education parents [within the school system] – not just representing myself,” she began telling the Board. “I’m extremely heartbroken to stand here. I’ve met with several of you, and I appreciate the ones who have been open to me and who have spoken and worked with me, but I am very upset with the ones who have known information and have chosen to take a direction to not help these children.”
Randolph explained that her child is nonverbal, as she emphasized, “I am her voice. There are other children within her class that are also nonverbal, and their parents have to speak up for them, as well.”
“I don’t think that any of you that are sitting here tonight have to go home and pray for your child to pass away before you do – I have to pray that my child dies at least a minute before I do. Do you know why? There is no one who will be able to take care of my kid. Nobody here is afraid of dying for the same reason I am, because I’m going to leave my child probably to a nursing facility, and I depend on all of you sitting here looking at me to make decisions for me,” she remarked.
She went on to explain that she did not have to depend on decisions made by the Board for her two older children, as she explained that their God-given intellect enabled them to be set up for success no matter the environment. “They could go to any school system and they were going to receive an education; but my youngest daughter is not. She has to go to this school system, and so do these other children. They have to receive services that y’all are not allowing them to receive,” Randolph continued. “You know they are not receiving them. It has been proven that we are not in compliance. The classroom that they are in is too large – it was too large last year, it’s too large this year. It’s chaotic.”
She added, “My child needs skills to be independent… These kids being recognized are going to be prepared to go off to college and do great things – that’s awesome. I’m preparing my child to get dressed and maybe live in an apartment by herself, but she’s not going to be able to do that if in these formidable years that she’s in right now, y’all are not doing your jobs.”
“I have begged – I have pleaded for that, and I am not the only one who has begged and pleaded for that,” Randolph said. She told the Board that while she understood that they were not formally trained in laws regarding Special Education, resources were available for them to find out the requirements associated with these concerns. “I understand that you have someone that has been hired to do that, but that does not mean that is happening and it is your job to look into it when it is brought to your attention,” she commented.
Randolph said that during the last three years under the current administration, her child has been served cold lunches, and has failed to be serviced by a special education teacher and speech teacher. She said both failures violated her child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a federal contract outlining the services a student will receive during the school year and services for which the school received federal funding to provide.
“The teachers that my child is under their direction have been warned about me. So, my child goes into a classroom and their teacher has been warned about me by administration – how is that going to impact the way they treat my child?” she questioned. “Why would you warn someone about me? Yes, I am going to be vocal about my child; I am going to be the frontline and take every bullet I can for her to make sure she gets what she needs, and I won’t apologize for it.”
She continued, “I’m also going to stand here and fight for the other kids in [that class]. A child is going to be moved to another classroom by himself because you’re not in compliance [with state code on classroom sizes], and rather than divide that class up because you receive the funding to do it, you’re going to move him where he is by himself, away from any other peers. That is not right for that child, as well.”
“These children are not being serviced,” Randolph summarized. “I cannot believe that a small community like this will not take care of these voiceless children. I cannot believe we have gone three years, and now, we’re after teachers because they cannot function in the environment that they are in. A teacher last year could not function in that environment – it’s chaotic, [and] it’s impossible. You have too large of a class size, [and] you have too many kids in that class, [and] you do not have enough staffing in there. You’ve had 3 parapros already leave that class.”
She explained that she had repeatedly asked to be able to meet the paraprofessionals that would be in her daughter’s class, which she felt was important because of her child being unable to tell her about the staff, and that has never occurred. According to Randolph, the class is not fully staffed and cannot maintain any staff within that classroom because of the stress it places on both teachers and parapros.
Randolph also stated that she felt it was unfair that teachers placed in the classroom were criticized and penalized for their lack of ability to productively function in the classroom. “You think the teacher is going to be able to be successful in that class, and when she can’t, you penalize her – I think that is unfair,” she commented. “I also think it’s unfair that when a teacher says, ‘I can’t do this,’ they can’t leave. They need to be able to leave because if they can’t do it, then that is not going to benefit my child either.”
Randolph concluded, “I really urge all of you to take a look at how you are treating the special education children, and to make a difference – there is change that needs to happen, and I am asking tonight on behalf of all of the special education children that you make a change – that you don’t talk about it, but you do it. That you look into the program – these kids are not getting their services; their IEPs are not being followed. You get in there, you get it compliant, and you get these kids the services they need, and communicate with us parents.”
A long with Randolph, community members Demetrius Wilson, Travis Love, Taneka Coglin, and Shaw Robinson all spoke about concerns they had about the high school football coach.
“The public wants to know if the coach was doing something wrong, and why the issue could not be handled,” Wilson told the Board. “I see he’s a good man – the kids like him, and most of the community is trying to keep him here.”
Love added to the con- continued from page
versation, stating, “I want to start by saying I am a 1997 graduate of Montgomery County [High School]; I played football all 4 years here, as well as basketball and track. During my senior year of football, we went 0-10 – I did manage to get a scholarship, along with my brother, and we did continue on to play collegiate football, and my brother actually was fortunate enough to be drafted, play professionally, and go on to win the Super Bowl. One of things that made that possible for both of us was the impact that came from our coach that we had.”
He continued, “During my time here in this high school, it was not a favorable situation as far as coaching is concerned. I had a different high school coach every year that I played high school football, and that had an impact on me as an athlete. I also, after college, was fortunate enough to coach high school football. I coached football in Dublin, GA, and we won the championship in 2006. So, I’ve had the opportunity to be a player, play at the next level, and coach. In being a coach myself, I learned the impact you have on a player as a coach.”
According to Love, coaches often also serve as role models and even father figures for football players, which he said further emphasizes the importance of making sure that young athletes have a stable coaching administration over them so that they made build those bonds. “When you get a situation where that father figure keeps changing every year, it’s very stressful to an athlete,” he said. “You get guys every year that come in here and say, ‘Oh, I love it; I want to stay and be here,’ and the next year, they’re gone. I’ve had one opportunity of sitting in a meeting where a coach told us before he left that he was leaving – that was the only situation where that happened. Everyone else – we just left and came back and had a new coach.”
Love said this type of turnover made things like succeeding in the sport and obtaining scholarships more difficult for many of the athletes. “That’s not something to be taken lightly, neither is the impact that a coach has on an athlete something to be taken lightly,” he remarked. “I have had the opportunity to have interaction with kids that no one else gave a chance in other scenarios and break through and reach them. The expression, ‘Those kids would go through a brick wall for me’ – I’ve seen it because they will do anything for you because you are there every day. They are able to find that sense of camaraderie with their teammates and that male interaction with their coaches. It’s very powerful and exciting to see when you have a kid who doesn’t believe he is capable of doing something, and you encourage him, and he does it, and you get to see the look on his face.”
He also stressed that the current football coach had previously won a state championship in the sport as a defensive coordinator, and that the school should try to retain any football coach who wanted to stay, as he shared he believed the current coach does because of him having bought a house within the county, and that has found that amount of success in the sport.
He also explained that a coach is not defined by the success of their sport’s season, as rebuilding years often happen with schools. “We often say that coaching is not always about the x’s and the o’s, but sometimes, it’s the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s,” Love commented. “Sometimes, you don’t have the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s, and that’s a real thing – there’s nothing you can do about it but continue to establish a system so that regardless of what kind of crop you have, the system will take root.”
Coglin spoke about her nephew’s experience with the coach, sharing that he had helped continue to grow her nephew’s passion for the sport. “With me, it’s more about the children – it’s more about what they like. Knowing that one of them would say that next year, they would rather not play football than deal with a new coach is heartbreaking, They’re just tired,” she told the Board. “We’ve had many great coaches – we just need one here that wants to stay.”
Robinson echoed many of the same sentiments as the other speakers, as he said, “We need someone here is going to be here for the kids.”
He explained that he had previously coached travel football, and had been told by coaches from other states that it was important to build from the bottom. “We need the coach that in it for the long haul. See what the kids have to say, then act on that,” he encouraged. Student Recognitions
Members of the Montgomery County 4-H, Montgomery County High School Future Farmers of America (FFA), and Montgomery County Elementary School Beta Club were recognized during the meeting for their recent excellence at competition.
First, Montgomery County Extension Agent Lauren Braddy and 4-H Program Assistant Julie Waller presented certificates of recognition to several students who recently competed at the District Cloverleaf District Project Achievement (DPA) competition in Lyons on Saturday, November 18.
During the competition, the students, grades 4-7, presented projects discussing topics in various categories, which they had previously researched. The students gave speeches and used visual aids to help them explain the information to several judges.
The students recognized included Ayla Hardeman –Entomology – 1st Place; Italy Thornton – Veterinary Science – 2nd Place; Micheal Nobles – Outdoor Recreation – 2nd Place; Aubree Glisson – Wildlife – 3rd Place; Isaac Nichols – Historic People – 1st Place, $100 h .. s
camp scholarship; Diego Ramirez – Computer Information Technology – 1st Place; Ameliyah Brown – Individual Sports – Honorable Mention; Jedaiah Michael – Workforce Preparation and Career Development – 1st Place; and Isaac Serrano – General Recreation – Honorable Mention.
The group was also recognized at the competition for having the highest percentage participation within their county’s 4-H, as they had 40 students compete, and the second highest amount of students participate within a county.
“This is always a really fun event, and it’s great to be able to see the growth in students as they come back year after year,” Braddy commented on the event.
Waller added, “Also, please thank your principals and administrators for allowing us to come in and work on these projects during the school day because it keeps you from having to pick them up after school, and it also increases the participation. It helps you as a parent, and it helps them and helps us. So, thank you to everyone.”
Montgomery County High School FFA Advisor Brittany Braddy recognized several FFA members who recently competed against around 16 counties in Area Career Development Events (CDE), during which they are tested on knowledge and skill in various topics related to agriculture.
According to Braddy, a total of 11 CDE competitors or teams had compet- continued from page
ed this Fall, and 9 of those competitors and teams placed within the Top 10 of their respective competitions. The competitors were: Katie Powell – Junior Floral Design – 5th in Area; 2nd Highest Design Score Ansleigh Randolph – Senior Floral Design – 6th in Area Brandon Arnsdorff – Tractor Operations and Maintenance Hannah Williamson – Senior Only Employability Skills – Only perfect score in area for cover letter and resume; 3rd in Interview Bray Williamson, Maecon Lynn, Nora Cartwright, Joseph Owens Environmental Natural Resources Team – 8th in Area Emma Durrence – FFA Quiz Joseph Owens (4th in Individual Event), Maecon Lynn (6th in Individual Event), Jamie Brown (11th in Individual Event) — Junior Wildlife Management Team Nora Cartwright (7th in Individual Event), Hannah Williamson (10th in Individual Event), Evan Hardeman (2nd in Individual Event), Luke Burns (13th in Individual Event) — Senior Wildlife Management Team – 8th in Area Kevin Medrano, Alex Cervantes, Sada Claron, Crystal Santiago — Junior Floriculture Team – 2nd in Area, move on to State Competition Ansleigh Randolph (24th Individually), Mya Nichols (17th Individually), Malalie Moody, Arianna Williams — Senior Floriculture Team – 9th in Area Mykel Murray – Lawn Mower Driving, and Operations and Maintenance – 9th in Area Ervin Barbosa, Evan Hardman — EMC Wiring Workshop – Will compete in January.
“We are very appreciative and proud of our students – they put a lot of hard work in and study their tails off for these events,” Braddy commented.
Montgomery County Elementary School Junior Beta Sponsor Whit King recognized Emmett O’Conner for his 4th place finish at the state convention last month for his stand-up comedy routine. “He did a comedy act in front of quite a few people, and he brought home 4th place, so we are really proud of him,” she remarked.
O’Conner performed his comedy routine for the attendees, as he showed why he was deserving of such success in the competition.
Action Items Several personnel decisions were approved by the Board. Resignations were approved for Montgomery County Elementary School Nurse Beth Williamson, effective on December 31, and Assistant Superintendent Brian Barnhill, effective on June 30.
Transfers of several current employees were also accepted by the Board for the upcoming school year, 2023-2024: Pre-K Director Leigh Anne Helms will become the school system Curriculum Director; Montgomery County Middle/ High School Principal Scott Barrow will become the Assistant Superintendent; Montgomery County Elementary School Principal Eric Burns will become the Montgomery County Middle School Principal; Montgomery County High School Assistant Principal Will Adams will become the Montgomery County High School Principal.
The Board also authorized salary stipends for several school club sponsors, a $1,200 lead teacher stipend for Montgomery County Elementary School Teacher Kaylee Coleman, and revised payscales for technology specialists, Special Education paraprofessionals, and registered nurses. Casey Williams was hired as a school nurse for the Montgomery County Elementary School, and Beverly Faircloth will serve as the Interim Curriculum Director at 49%, effective January 2. Lastly, the Board agreed to transfer Montgomery County Middle School Special Education Teacher Lindsey White to the elementary school, and Montgomery County Elementary School Special Education Teacher Callie Higgs to the middle school.
The Board approved to purchase an interactive playground technology set-up that will allow students to combine physical activity with their studies. This software and installation costs $32,500 and will be funded through ESSER funds.
The next two board meeting dates were set – the regular monthly work session for January will be on January 8, while the meeting will be on January 16; the work session for February will be February 8, and the regular meeting will be on February 13. The meeting dates for the rest of the year will be set by the March regular monthly meeting.