2016-03-24 / Front Page

Visiting educators amazed at how well-mannered Wilkes children are

By KIP BURKE
news editor

A visit by educators from several surrounding school systems was designed to confirm the Wilkes County school system’s plans for upcoming facility improvements, which it did, but it also pointed out what other visitors have said: the behavior and engagement of Wilkes County students is extraordinary, Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Caddell said.

“Throughout the school system from 10 a.m. through lunch,” Dr. Caddell told board members in Monday’s school board meeting, “in addition to commenting on how well we keep our facilities, they could not get over how well-behaved our kids were in the cafeterias, and how low the noise level was. And when they walked into the middle school and high school, they asked ‘where are the children?’ because there are no children in the hallways. Well, they’re in class where they need to be – but that’s amazing to people from other systems.”

The superintendent from Elberton, she said, “had walked down one hall to the junction and turned and said ‘in every classroom we went by, all the students were engaged.’ And he was surprised. But that’s the way we do business around here. I’ve visited other school systems where it seemed like they were changing classes on a staggered schedule, but they weren’t. There were just a lot of kids wandering around when they should have been in class. But our teachers are on task, our students are on task, and expectations are clear that when school’s in session, we’re going to be working in our classrooms.”

After the approval from the visiting educators, the state approved the school system’s facilities plan, and Monday the board members, including Chairman Ricky Callaway, Horace Jordan, Dann Standard, Andrew Jackson, and Steve Albertson, voted unanimously to approve the plan. They also voted to approve the cafeteria-style health insurance plan.

At the beginning of the meeting, Caddell passed out certificates of appreciation to the board members as a part of the annual School Board Appreciation Week in Georgia. “We appreciate the service that you give, and especially the dignity with which you serve. We are in an era when school boards do not always show dignity, and don’t always put children first, which is what a school board should do. You always do that, and we appreciate that.”

Chairman Callaway expressed his appreciation of the professional tone set by Wilkes County’s board members. “Wilkes County doesn’t realize how fortunate they are to get the caliber of board members we’ve had. We’ve always had a board that truly had the interests of the students of Wilkes County at heart.”

In the financial report, the system’s finances were boosted, Caddell said, by the receipt of more than $1 million in property tax revenue, but the SPLOST was down to $76,000, and the $26,000 in TAVT taxes was far less than expected, prompting a discussion on how the state manages taxes. “We have no idea how much more or less we get from the TAVT than we got from the birthday taxes on tags.”

Callaway said, “We’ve been trying to get answers on how much the GATE ag tax exemption has hurt sales tax, too, but nobody can tell me. I don’t think they know.”

The state’s supplemental budget approval will, however, reduce the “austerity” cuts that the state has made in the money it gives to school systems, Caddell said. “The allotments will be good for us this year. That came out in the paper like it’s a raise for teachers, but that’s not what it is at all. It’s just a three percent reduction in austerity cuts, reducing the amount they held back from us last year.”

The next meeting of the school board is set for Monday, April 18, at 2 p.m. at the board office.

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