December 14, 2018

Superintendent Kay shares SPLOST info

Submitted by Heard County Superintendent Rodney Kay

(Franklin, GA) — It certainly is hard to believe that the 18-19 school year is upon us!

We have seen another 131 students graduate from the Brave Nation, and we are gearing up for another great year.

I want to take a moment and make you aware of some very exciting things that are going on in our school system. But before I dive into the projects that we have going on I want to take a moment and say THANK YOU.

As you are aware, the citizens of Heard County have approved another 5-year SPLOST for our school system to utilize in order to purchase a myriad of things such as: New facilities, upgrades to existing facilities, technology, technology software programs, and school buses just to name a few.

SPLOST has served our children well in Heard County.

Our school system administrators and your local Board of Education take the stewardship of those funds very seriously, and we want to say thank you for your investment in education. When we think of SPLOST many times our attention goes directly to something new being built, but I want to draw your attention to something else. Maintenance and Upkeep of what we have been blessed with is paramount!

Over the past 15 years Heard County Schools has been blessed with some of the nicest facilities around, and it is our job to maintain those facilities now. Here is a breakdown of the scheduled replacement or upkeep of SPLOST purchases from the past.

Student Transportation: Heard County Schools receives no money from the state for the replacement/purchasing of school buses. Your SPLOST dollars have replaced all 26 of our buses and the total cost of that investment was $ 2.5 million.

Maintenance/Transportation Vehicles: The School System provides its transportation and maintenance department with vehicles. Those vehicles have either been replaced or are scheduled to be replaced during this SPLOST cycle. The total on those replacement vehicles will be around $200,000. These vehicles have served us well as most of them are or were approaching three hundred thousand miles and 15 years of service.

Technology for students: With the last SPLOST Heard County Schools was able to implement a 1:1 environment for children in grades 3 – 12, giving every child their own individual chromebook laptop,  and a pod of 5 Chromebook devices was installed in each K – 2 classroom. Once a project is completed plans have to be made for the replacement cycles of those projects. During the new SPLOST we have budgeted to replace the existing Chromebooks in 3-year cycles. The total replacement of the Chromebook project will take 3 years and the price tag will be $1 million.

Technology Software: SPLOST is also utilized to purchase various software programs that are used to help run the day to day operations of the system and are also embedded in classroom instruction for children.  Perhaps you have heard of some of these resources provided for your child: Accelerated Reader, BrainPop, Handwriting Practice Workbooks, ED Galaxy, Flocabulary, GO Math, IXL, MobyMax, MyON Digital Library, NewsELA, OdysseyWare Virtual School/Credit Recovery Software, Reading A to Z, Read 180, USA Test Prep, and many others have a yearly subscription total of close to $250,000.  Another piece of software which is mission critical for a goal of authentic student engagement is a program called GO Guardian. This software gives teachers and schools the ability to “lockdown” certain websites, allows teachers to block internet access if needed to ensure students are engaged in class rather than browsing the web. The subscription for GO Guardian is $45,000.

Technology Hardware: SPLOST is also being used to purchase computers throughout the school system. During this new SPLOST the school system will be replacing teacher desktops/laptops in all schools. The replacement project will occur over a 3 – year period and will cost the system in the neighborhood of $750,000. Another piece of hardware utilized on a daily basis by teachers in the Heard County School System is what is known as an interactive whiteboard, also known as a SmartBoard. The oldest SmartBoards in our school system are close to 15 years old and like all things, their lifespan is not forever. During this SPLOST we will begin our replacement cycle of those boards (25 per year). The total cost of replacing the boards throughout the entire school system will be close to $1 million.

HVAC Units: As our “new” schools begin to age it will be necessary to include in our budget the cost of replacing our AC Units. The cost of replacement bard units over the life of this SPLOST cycle has been budgeted at $250,000.

Fine Arts: As a school system we are dedicated to providing the resources to build a fine arts program that our county can be proud of. In this SPLOST cycle we will continue to invest in class equipment for those programs. We have purchased a total of $200,000 worth of musical instruments for classroom usage at HCHS and HMS.  Our Board of Education has recently approved the purchase of Elementary musical equipment to the tune of $40,000. Our hope is under the leadership of Jaime Barnard and Eric Vogel we will continue to see our Band Programs grow and thrive. In the area of Art Instruction, our Board of Education recently approved the purchase of a new kiln to replace the existing one at HCHS and we will continue to invest in the Art program as we have seen the excitement for these programs grow since the additions of Mr. Clint Robinson and Mr. Jay Davis to our high school and middle school faculties.

Classroom Materials: Heard County High received a large sum to replenish its CTAE programs during this SPLOST Cycle. Agriculture (both middle and high school), Sports Medicine, Culinary Arts, AV Technology, Automotive, and Construction all saw new equipment for their programs which totaled close to $100,000. New Science lab tables and stools, new chairs, and many other pieces of classroom furniture are in line for purchase as well as materials such as dissection kits for science labs and other classroom supplies. These new science materials will total about $15,000.

Just to be clear, these are the expenses over the next 5 years that are needed just to simply MAINTAIN WHAT WE HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH.

Over the next 5 years we will spend between $6 million and $7 million on this maintaining process. All of the projects listed above would not happen without the SPLOST, so once again, we say thank you for investing in education!

Now that you see what comes straight off the top let me tell you about a couple of projects that are new:

Facility Additions/Upgrades: On the campus of Centralhatchee Elementary School the Heard County School System has separated car rider and bus lane traffic for safety reasons. The new bus rider/car rider lanes will come complete with covered canopies for students. That project is scheduled to be completed before the 18-19 school year and the total cost of that project is $500,000. The Middle School Gym just received a total makeover. The gym floor was stripped and sanded and re-striped and the gym bleachers are being replaced as well. The total cost of that project is $100,000. Staples Stadium has received a few upgrades as well. The football field has had a new scoreboard installed and the emergency vehicle entrance behind the visitors’ bleachers has been paved. Along with the scoreboard, the football field also had playclocks installed with decorative brick to match the new press box. The total cost of the project will be around $90,000.

School Safety: I thought it appropriate to share with you the actions that have been taken by the Heard County Board of Education and system leaders to improve school safety for the students of Heard County. As a citizen of Heard County, I take great pride in our community. We have a community in which most of us know each other by name and consider ourselves friends. We like to think that we are immune from anything too terribly bad happening here. I believe that feeling of comfort can create complacency which can be our biggest threat.  Our school system has been very intentional in regard to the safety of our children.

The first order of business has been to build a great working relationship with our first responders in the community. Sheriff Ross Henry, Chief Kevin Hannah, and Chief Wirth have been excellent partners. Together with school and system administrators we have developed plans and protocols that cover almost every possible scenario.

Our first responders have used our schools to perform drills on non-school days and are very familiar with the layout of each school. Each school has a school safety team that helps to identify gaps in our system and school safety plans.

Members of the committee attend a Safety Summit in late July. This summit is organized by Mr. Lance Wilson and board of education member, Mr. Greg Holcomb, and involves local first responders, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, and Tanner Medical Center. Each safety team is given a scenario they must work through together.

In addition to the Safety Summit, each school safety team will have “Stop the Bleed” training. This training will teach members how to give life-saving first aid while waiting on a building to be secured by law enforcement.

Our board of education has approved the investment of several facility improvements to enhance safety. Each Heard County School has a security door that separates the main office from the classroom sections of the building. This prevents someone coming through the front doors and immediately gaining access to the students.

Parents are always welcome in our schools, however it’s imperative that they check-in at the office and are buzzed through the security doors after they have signed in.

Our schools with the longest response time potential will be equipped with the SHIELD Lockdown System. The system compartmentalizes the school, notifies everyone in the building to lockdown and directly notifies law enforcement of the SHIELD activation as well as 9-1-1. All this occurs in 4 to 6 seconds.

Another important investment has been made to upgrade the camera systems at Heard County High School, Ephesus Elementary School, and Centralhatchee Elementary School.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, Heard County Schools, working in conjunction with the Heard County Sheriff’s Department, will employ an armed School Resource Officer. The main function of this position is to protect our students and help them to feel safe and secure in our schools.

The School Resource Officer will work to build positive relationships with students, staff, and the community in order to address issues that might negatively impact our schools

The past three years the school system has worked cooperatively through a grant with Willowbrooke of Tanner to provide additional mental health professionals in our schools.

In addition to our already established school counselors, school psychologist, and school nurse positions, Willowbrooke provides an additional layer of services to help students who need more intensive mental health services. We will continue this partnership with Willowbrooke of Tanner.

We will continue to engage in a Plan-Do-Check-Act process when it comes to school safety. The balance of maintaining a safe environment while protecting the instructional time can be difficult at times.

However, we understand first and foremost that when a parent sends their child to school in the morning, they expect to have their child safely returned to them each afternoon. I want to assure the community that the system and the board of education share in this expectation and take the safety of our children very seriously.

Fine Arts/Gymnasium Project: There is one additional major project in the infant stages of planning for our school system. On the campus of Heard County High School we are planning on building a multi-purpose building. The multi-purpose building will be a “performance only” facility which will serve as a fine arts performance center and a gymnasium. Many have asked, “Why do we need a new gym when we already have one on campus?” The answer is simple. The current gym is not up to GA High School Association Standards, and this new facility is an investment that will serve our students in the area of Fine Arts and Athletics for the next 50 years. We are hoping the new structure will generate more interest in the theater and fine arts from our students in grades K-12. We hope to break ground on this project in May of 2020 and look forward to opening the doors to this facility to the public at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. There is not a set price tag for this project, but we believe the final total will be in the range of $12 million.

QUICK FACTS

  • 42% of all SPLOST funds in Heard County are generated from our local power companies

  • $6-7 million of our SPLOST is used every 5 years to upkeep what we already have

  • SPLOST cannot be used to pay anyone’s salary and it cannot be used for routine maintenance of facilities

I apologize for the long read, but as I began to think about ways to put this into smaller parts there just wasn’t a way to accomplish that task.  I sincerely hope what you take away is the following:

  • We greatly appreciate your support for our school system and our children

  • We would not be able to maintain our current educational system without the SPLOST.  Things that the Brave Nation have come to appreciate and expect would have to be done away with were it not for our community’s support of our SPLOST

  • Our school system cares about all programs and wishes for them all to be something our community can take pride in

Thank you for being a wonderful support system for our children, and I would like to personally thank the Board of Education for their collaborative spirit and willingness to work for the betterment of our children’s educational experience.

Respectfully,

Rodney Kay

Superintendent

Heard County School System

Comments

  1. Rod Akers says:

    With all due respect, Rodney Kay, the facilities work at Centralhatchee is behind schedule.

    Question: is there liquidated damages is the contract? Did the contractor call to have the utilities spotted before he hit the water line?

  2. Rodney Kay says:

    The water line was repaired the same day and it was not documented on any plans we had for the school and the utilities were located. It had been leaking through the pavement for years. From our last meeting, we have been assured the project will be completed on time.

  3. Trinity says:

    Yes Mr. Kay very long read thank you for the transparency of your office. Looking forward to seeing our already nice facilities get better. Good job

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