Posted on

State Targets Wheeler’s Special Needs Program for Additional Support

The Wheeler County Board of Education, which met for a regular monthly session on February 12, learned that the system’s middle school has been identified by the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) as an Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) facility based on the performance of its special needs students in English Language Arts.

Superintendent Suzanne Couey said that she, Middle School Principal Ginger Horne, and Assistant Superintendent Ericka Clark met with GADOE personnel on February 8 to discuss the state’s monitoring process to “guide our progress toward improvement. We will be working with GADOE to support instruction in those areas.” Administrators will be required to present an overview of school performance and growth to the Board as the improvement process progresses. The school will receive $10,000 to support practices to increase student achievement in English Language Arts.

Couey also noted that the school system has received the remaining state funds for building projects. “Since we began construction projects in 2021, we have built the Ag facility, the transportation facility, the baseball hitting facility, a new K-12 school, and are in the process of replacing bleachers at the football stadium,” Couey explained. “We are looking at a few other facilities improvements and should be able to pay off bonds by 2030, which is earlier than the original bond purchase agreement stipulated. Thankfully, we have been able to accumulate savings earmarked for debt service and capital outlay and will be able to save about $3.3 million in interest,” she added.

Couey reported that the new aluminum bleachers for the Wheeler County stadium arrived last week and installation is set to begin right away so that the site will be ready for the high school graduation in May. At its January session, the Board approved purchasing the bleachers at a cost of $40,000. The new bleachers will replace wooden seating on the home side of the stadium. Seating on the visitors’ side was installed in the 1990s.

Couey also noted that while repairs to Wheeler Street located behind the Wheeler County School were scheduled to begin February 12, inclement weather caused a temporary delay. Work was expected to commence later in the week.

After learning that the system is losing substitute instructors to other counties which are paying higher salaries, the Board agreed to increase the substitute teachers’ pay scale. “We only have a few substitutes whom the schools can count on regularly. Some of them substitute in other counties and report to those counties before coming to Wheeler because the pay is higher. We haven’t updated our pay since the fall of 2017,” Couey told the Board.

The Board also received an update on the renewal of a Strategic Waiver School System (SWSS) application which Couey and other administrators will be preparing in the coming weeks. Couey reminded the Board that the original SWSS contract was entered into with the Georgia Department of Education in 2016, but the renewal period was extended because of the health pandemic. “All SWSS schools across the state will have to renew their contracts with the GADOE this year. The GADOE hosted the first webinar regarding the process last week,” Couey explained. She said the Board will need to approve the application by May 1. “I anticipate requesting the same strategic waivers to provide the district with flexibility to meet our specific needs and improve student achievement,” she said.

Couey said that the state recently completed the FY22 audit of the school system “and it was a good report.”

The Board also received a report on a compactor fire which occurred on school property on January 17. “We don’t know what caused the fire,” Couey said. She said Ryland Environmental, which provides sanitation services to the school system, has agreed to purchase the damaged compactor in exchange for $15,000 in services for the school system. “They won’t charge us for trash disposal for March through December, and insurance will pay the difference between our original cost for the compactor and the $15,000 (from Ryland), less our deductible.” Couey said that the system will replace the compactor with dumpsters placed at the K-12 school, and kitchen trash will continue to be carried to the old Wheeler County Elementary School site.

The Board approved the hiring of Brooke Anderson Hancock and Rasheedah Shaheed as classroom substitutes pending a background check and the completion of training; Ty Vann as community coach for middle school baseball; and James Wesley Lowery as a teacher and coach for WCHS for the next school year.

The Board will meet for its next monthly session on March 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Board office in Alamo.

Recent Death Notices