A marked increase in absences among both students and teachers, coupled with a contract decision near deadline, prompted the Lebanon Board of Education to approve a contract with a new substitute staffing service Monday.
The contract went to Professional Education Services Group, and became the first for the company in Tennessee. Kim Woodson with PESG said the company was started in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 2006 and has since established an office in Nashville. Woodson said she operates an office out of her home in Watertown.
“We use local, but we also recruit from universities and use retired teachers, so you get the quality.”
The three-year contract’s amount wasn’t disclosed during the board meeting Monday, but board member Andy Brummett said the cost would rise by 3 percent each year.
“We think it’s a good situation for us,” said Director of Schools Scott Benson.
Benson said TA Staffing, which the board currently has under contract to provide substitutes, was the other bidder. He said the new contract goes into effect July 1.
Benson also released the current enrollment report to the board and said recent illness caused attendance to drop about 13.1 percent at its peak. He said 6 percent of students, however, were out last week.
Although it is higher than normal, it isn’t horrible,” Benson said. “We’ve got to be proactive in the battle.”
Brummett asked Benson about enrollment at Winfree Bryant Middle School and whether an increase of students enrolling there would cause issues in overcrowding. Benson said plans are to move computer labs to a different location within the school, which would add three classrooms.
“And that’s just phase one,” Benson said.
Brummett said, “Don’t just Band-Aid by pulling somebody out of a computer lab.”
The board also approved changes to a section in its policies concerning state law change that sets kindergarten start age at 5 if the child turned 5 on or before Aug. 31. That new law goes into effect at the beginning of the new school year and moves the birth date to Aug. 15 thereafter and doesn’t apply to out-of-state transfers. Current law requires 5 year olds start school if their birthday is on or before Sept. 30.
Benson said schools would begin releasing registration information for kindergarten and other grades soon.
The board also changed its policy regarding approved student transfers to allow that transfer to be good for one year only and then be subject to review.
Benson said Lebanon schools was one of 127 districts found to not be in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. Section 504 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The board passed a resolution calling for compliance with all Section 504 rules.
Benson also said a new window project was nearly complete at Sam Houston Elementary School, and window replacements would begin soon at Byars Dowdy Elementary School.
Benson said since December, Nancy Ashe was hired to be the district’s assistant director of schools, and teachers hired included Fran O’Riordan at Walter J. Baird Middle School, Dana Parrish at Sam Houston Elementary School and Lindsey Stephens at Coles Ferry Elementary School.
The board also:
• approved building a cover on an outdoor classroom at Byars Dowdy Elementary School at no cost with Home Depot donating materials.
• approved buying 15 iPads at a cost of $6,000 at Coles Ferry Elementary School with the Parent-Teacher Organization reimbursing the full cost.
• approved accepting bids for a well to be dug at Walter J. Baird Middle School for athletic field irrigation.
The board will meet March 11 at 5 p.m. at the Central Office.