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School board aims to have wireless network at all local schools

The Grady County Board of Education is moving forward with a plan to hopefully provide all seven school campuses with wireless Internet access.
Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis told school board members last Thursday the system’s technology department is prepared to put the project out to bid.
Original estimates are upwards of $500,000 to implement the wireless network at all seven schools.
“Before we put the project out to bid we want to make sure we are all perfectly comfortable with what we are doing here. We want to make sure we are doing what we need to do and the board is comfortable with it,” Dr. Pharis said.
Concerns about security and the cost were discussed in part at the rescheduled board meeting Thursday.
Board Chairman Teresa Gee Harris emphasized the importance of having a secure network and Board member Allen Jenkins noted “this is quite a bit of money.”
Dr. Pharis said if the board was comfortable with the overall project it could be put out for bid to determine actual costs and Technology Director Chris Guest would be in attendance at the December meeting to address questions regarding security.
Board member Jenkins also questioned if the charter grants are approved for Cairo High School and Shiver Elementary School could the cost of the wireless network at those schools come out of those funds.
Dr. Pharis said that was an option but his recommendation would be to establish a basic wireless service at all of the schools and any additional funding the schools earn could be used to enhance the service.
“What we want to do is all campuses and the entire facility. We have $500,000 in Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax #3 for infrastructure for this project,” Dr. Pharis said.
Based on the bids, Dr. Pharis said priorities would be established if there is not sufficient money to install the wireless network at all seven schools.
The consensus of the board was to proceed with putting the project out for bid.
In other business Thursday, the school board:
‰Heard an instructional update from Assistant Superintendent Martha Fowler. Mrs. Fowler said she was concerned that criteria on which Georgia public schools will be judged to determine academic performance standards has yet to be finalized and the school year is half over. She also said that 18 students are currently enrolled in the school system’s virtual school.
‰Heard a report on teacher collaboration from Mrs. Fowler and Dr. Pharis. Teachers at the various schools at all grade levels are meeting every nine weeks and in some cases more often to collaborate and discuss best teaching practices as well as the new common core curriculum. At these sessions benchmark assessments are also being developed. “Our instructional coordinators are doing an excellent job working with these grade level teachers on developing benchmark assessments. This gives us an opportunity to learn from each other,” she said. Dr. Pharis added, “We have teachers at each school working with each other and working with teachers at the other various schools both formally and informally. There is a lot of collaboration going on.”
‰Heard an update on the charter school applications for Cairo High School and Shiver. Dr. Pharis along with administrators, teachers and students from CHS; Archway Professional Sharon Liggett; Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jennifer Majors; and administration representatives from Thomas University, Bainbridge College, and Southwest Georgia Technical College traveled to Atlanta last week to be interviewed by the Technical College System of Georgia representatives concerning the high school’s College and Career Academy application. “We learned later we were the first ever to include students in the interview which was surprising to us since what this is all about is the kids,” Dr. Pharis said. Four systems have made application and a decision will be made in early December. “We feel very good about it. Tuesday was a really good day and we will just wait and see what happens,” he said.
‰Approved the hiring of the following personnel: Calla Coker, nurse at Southside Elementary School; Casey Ponder, family and consumer science teacher at Cairo High School; Sara Richardson, school nutrition worker at Washington Middle School.
‰Approved the transfer of Susan Maxwell from the bookkeeper at Whigham to the central office as purchasing specialist. Board member Cuy Harrell III abstained from voting on the transfer.
‰Accepted the retirement of Connie Sellers, school nutrition worker, and Ron Marx, special ed teacher at Washington Middle School.
‰Approved the termination of Jamie Peck, school nutrition worker, and Laurie Barlow, Shiver Elementary School custodian.
‰Went behind closed doors to discuss a personnel issue.

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