The Valdosta Daily Times
During the Valdosta Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, the board welcomed a new staff member, discussed a new policy and approved two pieces of unfinished business.
Bob Jones was publicly welcomed by the board as the new Finance Director for Valdosta City Schools. Jones has 35 years of experience in education and was warmly welcomed as a new staff member.
During his first day as Finance Director, Jones was able to present to the board a positive report on the millage rate for 2013. Jones shared, and it was reiterated by Board Chair, Trey Sherwood, that there was no millage rate increase for 2013. Jones also shared that “there will be no increase in taxes for the local taxpayer unless their property was reassessed by the tax assessor this year.” Sherwood was proud to say that the rates were “holding steady for the fourth year in a row.”
The most discussed item during the board meeting was the first reading of policy JBC(4) which focuses on awarding units and transferring credits. This discussion item was presented by Scarlet Brown, head of teaching and learning for Valdosta City Schools. Brown began the discussion with the board by stating, “The state board policy was updated in April so school districts around the state are scrambling to revise their policy to be in line.”
She also discussed the highlights of the policy, the first of which is on whether the district offers middle school classes that allow for high school credit, which Valdosta City Schools do. There were also differences in transfer credits from non-accredited schools. The school would be required to review the courses that the student has taken and make sure that they align with the state curriculum. Students would also have to take the End of Course Testing (EOCT) for the courses.
The final highlight was the ability to test out of a class by taking the EOCT. The policy that Brown presented to the board states that qualifying students may test out of up to three courses. If a student is interested in taking the EOCT, they must meet the qualifications of having at least a B in the course, must show a competency in the course and also have a teacher recommendation. The EOCT would only count as course credit and would have no numerical grade and no effect on their GPA. The course would also show up on their transcript as “Course Credit.” In order to opt out of a class, students must exceed on the EOCT, not simply pass. They must be in the higher level of passing.
Several questions and concerns were raised by the board, many of which focused on concerns about penalizing the higher level students by not allowing a letter grade to be associated with the test. Brown responded to these concerns by saying, “The whole purpose of a student wanting to exercise the option of wanting to test out is that they would want to take more math courses. It would not be because they don’t want to take more math courses. So for those additional math courses that they may take, they would be getting course credits, plus grades in those courses.”
Kelly Wilson, in support of the policy, stated, “The benefits of that would be that that child now has the time, since there are only four years in your high school career, to then take Second Calculus AP, where as now you only have time to take First.”
Vanassa Flucas, District 2, also cited concerns about options for students if there is not a higher level class offered. Brown answered this concern by saying, “There are lots of ways to go about that. Virtual school is an option. We are also looking into offering within our school district more online opportunities. There are some viable options that we can offer.”
Brown also informed the board that each opt out EOCT test that was given would cost the district $50 if the student does not pass. She said that the state does this to discourage schools from allowing just any student to take the test and that they should be highly selective on which students are allowed to take the test.
Bill Love, District 6, asked who would make the call on which students were allowed to take the opt out EOCTs. Brown responded, “That would be up to the school administrators.”
All of the administrators must base their judgments on the Georgia Board of Education rule on Awarding Units of Credit and Acceptance of Transfer Credit as well as the Guidelines for Awarding Unites of Credit.
Following the first reading of the policy, the board unanimously approved the VECA trip to Washington D.C. as well as the new Student Code of Conduct. Only one slight change was made to the Code of Conduct and that was in the nutrition program section. Dr. Alvin Hudson discussed the change, “As a district, you approved for us to participate in theCommunity Eligibility Option and that is where all of our students will receive a healthy breakfast and lunch at no cost and that has been reflected.”
During public participation, John Robinson with Valdosta Small Emerging Business (VSEB), spoke to the board about Pinevale Elementary School. He recognized that the project was unique and appreciated and hoped that the board would consider using VSEB for future projects to keep money in the community. Robinson concluded by saying, “Thank you for putting something like this together and for putting the thought into it and we look forward to working with you.”