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Wheeler BOE Approves Agreement for Relocating Alternative School

The Wheeler County Board of Education has approved an agreement with the Montgomery County Schools that will allow the districts to partner to provide alternative education services for Wheeler’s students. The action was taken during the Wheeler Board’s monthly session on Monday, May 13.

Wheeler has been contending with finding a suitable location for its alternative students for some time. The students were moved from the campus in Glenwood to the multipurpose room of the old Wheeler County Middle High School in 2018 and to the old elementary school in the fall of 2022. The latest move was to the new K-12 campus in January 2024, but the school and district administrators agree that housing the students separately is a better option. Alternative education programs are intended to meet the educational needs of a student who is suspended from the regular classroom and of a student who is eligible to remain in the regular classroom but is more likely to succeed in a nontraditional setting.

Accommodating the students at Montgomery County’s site, which is a separate facility from the main campus, will resolve the concerns about proximity, but also may save Wheeler County some money down the road.

In presenting the proposed agreement to the Board, Wheeler Superintendent Suzanne Couey said, “This agreement will likely save us money, as well as ensure students are off campus.”

The average annual cost of enrolling one student in the program could be $10,000, or $833 per month, but this figure is contingent on a number of factors. Couey explained the amount Wheeler will pay Montgomery per student would fluctuate depending upon how many students are enrolled each month. “For instance, if August had five students, the total would be $4,165 for that month; if September had seven, the total would be $5,831.” Because the number of students enrolled at any time is governed by the consequences of infractions committed by the students, the amount the school system will pay can only be approximated. The Wheeler School System had no more than 15 students in this program at any time during the past school year. Some funding for the program comes from the state, but the bulk of the funding is local.

Couey said the savings the system would experience in eliminating two salaried positions and other expenses associated with the program, makes the agreement with Montgomery a more practical option for the future. Montgomery would mainstream the Wheeler students into its program, utilize its faculty and facilities, and provide student meals. Students will be bused to Montgomery County, along with students who attend GNET’s Facility, Heartland. Wheeler County students will follow the Montgomery County Schools calendar.

The Board adopted the resolution with a unanimous vote.

Housekeeping Items

The Board approved a salary scale for teachers that reflects a $2,500 statewide increase approved by Governor Brian Kemp. The Board also approved a salary scale for classified staff to be hired in the future and approved a 4.1% raise for all current classified staff members.

Also approved was a $42,500 allocation to complete work at the school system’s new agricultural complex, including housing for livestock, signage, storage for equipment including a tractor, and a porch. The work will be completed by students under the supervision of instructors, and will be financed by capital outlay funds. Couey stated, “Mr. (Bryant ) Oliver (agricultural instructor) talked to me about some possible additions, and I asked him to provide a list of everything he needs to complete the (agricultural complex) project. We have invested so much money in the building already, I would really like to see it completed with everything they need.”

Personnel Action

The Board approved the following recommendations for employment.

• Elementary School: teachers Megan Dykes, Heather Widener, and Debra Hammons to work half-time to teach fifth grade science/social studies; paraprofessionals Riley Rothwell and Brooke Hancock; and receptionist Mia Ingram.

• Middle School: prin cipal Juaquita Williams; and paraprofessional Calvin Wilcox.

• Food Service kitchen manager Tabitha Wilcox.

• High School assistant principal Benji Hartley.

The Board also accepted the resignations of Jennifer Green-Sullivan and Chelsea Upchurch, both high school English teachers, and Heron Gardner, middle school math teacher.

The next Board meeting will be held June 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Board office in Alamo.

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