Price for Pope construction, call for 2 TCAP tests, other items passed by JMCSS Board

Here’s a rundown of the main items taken care of during the September meeting of the Jackson-Madison County School Board on Sept. 14.

The Board approved the Superintendent’s potential bonus for the next two years that will be capped at $25,000 each year. They also approved the superintendent’s evaluation instrument and bonus rubric for the school year that will be used to evaluate his performance in a year.

The Board approved an agreement with Madison County to use the County’s IT Director, Matthew Presson, in house as the district’s IT manager in which the school system will pay the County $27,000 for a year of his services in that role.

When it was time to discuss the approval of the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of the new Pope School construction project, board member Harvey Walden had a number of questions for Cary Henson of Henson Construction.

Walden was concerned the price of the project will be more than the GMP for multiple reasons including the possibility of the project not receiving a grant from Homeland Security for the saferoom that is planned for the building that would relieve more than $2 million from the price, off-site improvements that aren’t budgeted but required by the Jackson City Board of Zoning Appeals and $2.8 million to be set aside for any necessary contingencies during the process.

The County Commission approved $48 million for the project, and Henson has $42 million to work with after $500,000 budgeted for offsite improvements and $5.5 million set aside to furnish the building once it’s finished.

“I feel the need to think about what a worst-case scenario is and how bad that would be,” Walden said during his questioning. “Because we need to know if everything goes wrong, how bad will it be?”

Walden’s math had the project at about $1.9 million over budget and he asked if they could use the contingency money for the things that are putting the project over budget.

“We could use them if they’re available at the end of the project, but we can’t use them now because they need to be available in the case of a contingency,” Henson said.

Walden and Debbie Gaugh both put out the notion of delaying a month or two to vote on approving the GMP depending on whether or not Homeland Security approves the grant for the saferoom, which would delay continued work on the project because Henson said he had contracts already written up and ready to be sent out the following day to different businesses for work within the project. Delaying the vote would delay those contracts going out, which would delay the work of those contracts.

“A month’s delay in work this time of year is risking the same thing as three months of work because we’ve got a window right now to get work done for the next couple months before weather will severely affect our work in the winter into next spring,” Henson said.

The Board eventually approved the GMP and Henson’s continuing the work with the project.

The Board approved another item related to Pope, approving the budget amendment for Orcutt/Winslow to work with Clay Williams & Associates to begin design work on Phase 1 of offsite improvements – which is installing the turn lane on Ashport Road in front of the school. That money is part of the $500,000 budgeted for offsite improvements.

Another item the Board approved was a resolution regarding ELA testing. While the Board still collectively is opposed to the importance placed on the TCAP testing for third-graders that happens in the spring and could potentially result in third-graders who are otherwise doing well in their studies being held back, the resolution is aimed at trying to remove the anxiety from the test itself.

The resolution calls on Tennessee School Board Association and the state legislature to enact required double tests for the students within a couple weeks of each other to take the anxiety and potential surprise of a needed second test out of the equation.

“The district didn’t get the results of the first test back until after school had already gotten out for the summer, so our people were having to call families who were on the beach or at Disney World or wherever and telling them, ‘Hey, your child needs to take this test again, and you need to be here later this week to do it,’” said board member Jason Compton. “If we have the students take the test on a certain day in April and then go ahead and tell them they’ll take it a second day – on May 1 or something like that even if we don’t have the results of the first test back yet – everyone takes it that second time too.

“And we take the better score for each student from those two tests. Then if any child doesn’t pass on two tries, then they sign up for the remediation programs in the summer or in fourth grade.”

The Board approved the resolution to be sent to the legislature and TSBA.

James “Pete” Johnson was re-elected as chairman of the board, and Ken Newman was re-elected vice-chair. Sherry Franks was re-elected to remain the legislative liaison for the Board, and Andre Darnell will remain the parliamentarian.

When Superintendent Marlon King gave his report at the end of the meeting, he let the Board know that enrollment in the district is up by 285 students, an increase of about 2.25 percent.

He also would like the Board to discuss a resolution to look at how schools are evaluated because some schools are getting high marks for growth, and others are getting high marks for achievement, and a lot of those in either group are getting low marks for the other side of evaluations.

“I think schools need to be commended for growth and achievement instead of one or the other,” King said.

Graduation rates for the district have risen to 90.4 percent, which is up from 85 percent.

“That is our commitment to the students and making sure they’re prepared for wherever life takes them after their time in education with us,” King said after the meeting. “So we appreciate the work of everyone in the district to help our babies become educated and graduate.

“And now we’re watching them have an impact on the world around them, and it all started with the education they received in Jackson-Madison County Schools System.”

Brandon Shields,