Mechatronics, safety upgrades coming to Obion County Schools

by Benita Fuzzell

Funding sources for school safety equipment and procedures, as well as a new program coming to Obion County School system’s students were bright spots of discussion during regular school board session Monday night.

Meeting at the board office in Union City, school board members Fritz Fussell, Barry Adams, Brian Rainey, Keisha Hooper, Tim Britt and Kyle Baggett, heard from Director of Schools Dr. Leah Watkins about the state of Tennessee’s grant funding for safety measures to be implemented in schools, with evaluations first made in the local system by principals and law enforcement officers, as to specific needs.

Dr. Watkins said the Governor has authorized a one time capital allocation, and then an increase in funds annually designated for school safety. She said she plans to submit the requested needs to the state, and await notification as to funds to be made available to Obion County.

“I am excited. This is a step in the right direction. We appreciate the principals and Mr. (Heath) Cunningham for coming up with the list,” said board chair Fussell.

Among items listed was:

• Non-recurring items were upgrades to the analog camera systems to digital for three elementary schools, upgrading of camera servers at Obion County Central High School and South Fulton High School, and upgrading electric strike plates for six schools.

• Recurring needs included detection dogs, using of off duty law enforcement for student arrival times, safety supplements and anonymous report system, STOPIT, for grades six through 12.

Other points of discussion were the installation of electric locks for special education classrooms, two way radios at $300 each, 37 requested, security gates at OCCHS, barriers to entrances at OCCHS, reflective safety vests for RM, cones for RM and lanyards and/or name tags for visitors, subs and volunteers for all schools.

In her report, Dr. Watkins updated the board on a Mechatronics program to be implemented in the school system, a program which will include engineering, electronics and communication skills. She said previously a generous gift of $180,000 had been earmarked for the implementation of the program, through Keith Hamilton.

Following that gift, a group of Obion County School system staff, including George Leake and Greg Barclay, visited other school systems which currently had taken on the program and after review, the local group realized the $180,000 would not be enough to proceed in funding the program.

However on Aug. 6, with assistance from Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire, the Obion County budget committee agreed to match the original $180,000 gift, with another $180,000. That recommendation will now go to the Obion County Commission for approval.

The “cutting edge” program, according to Leake, will be a great opportunity to entice industry, with the provision of a skilled work force.

Mechatronics is defined as a multi disciplinary field of science that includes a compilation of mechanical engineering, electronics, computer engineering, telecommunications engineering, system engineering and control engineering.

The Director of Schools praised the faculty and staff within the school system, for “putting in long hours, and dedication” for the beginning of the school year Aug. 1, and credited the area media for the positive publicity afforded to the system.

Discussion took place during regular session of the Obion County School Board regarding school safety grant proposals.

Board members reviewed the personnel report which included leaves of absence for Corey Moffitt and Emily Berner; resignations for Deanna Sparks, School Nurse, Sheila Williams, Special Ed Teacher, Glenda Taylor, Food Service and Cassie Miller, Ag Teacher.

New hires listed included Dr. Leah Watkins, Director of Schools, Emmylou Denman, Pre-K Teacher, Tonya Owens, Food Service Secretary/Receptionist, Amanda Brooks, Special Ed Teacher, Andrea Anderson, School Nurse, Dorothy Davis, Special Education Teacher, Stuart Watson, Ag Teacher, Alice Price, Spanish Teacher, Natoshia Mancini, Health Science Instructor, Aaron Boone, Groundskeeer, Amy Fisher, Health Science Instructor, Amanda Gilbert, bookkeeper and Tammy Long, Custodian.

Substitute teachers approved included Bethany Carter, recommended by Vikki Hayslett and George Leake; Elisha Easterwood, recommended by Lesa Scillon and Adam Stephens, Juanita Easterwood, recommended by Vikki Hayslett and George Leake, and Deedra Lee, recommended by Nancy Hamilton and Lesa Scillion.

The board approved the Director of Schools’ participation in the State’s Executive Development Program for Public School Leaders, Component III - CEO Leadership Institutes, with no financial obligation attached to the board’s approval.

School support organizations in compliance with state statutes, as to continued existence as a nonprofit organization and the documentation of goals, revenues and disbursements, were recognized.

Included were South Fulton Athletic Boosters, South Fulton Band Boosters, Ridgemont Elementary PTO, Ridgemont Junior High Booster Club, Runnin Rebels Booster Club, OC Rebel Sliders, OC Junior Quarterback Club, OCCHS Quarterback Club, OCCHS Pom Club, Lady Rebel Rebounders Club, Lady Rebels Diamond Club, OCCHS Band Boosters, OC Anglers, Lake Road PTO, Hillcrest Elementary PTO, Hillcrest Elementary Booster Club, and Black Oak Elementary PTO.

A notation was made that the OC Junior Quarterback Club disbanded July 1, 2018.

Bids were solicited and received from J.D. Distributors and Central Poly for janitorial supplies for the 2018-2019 school year. The majority of items were recommended from J.D. Distributors.

Director of Schools Dr. Watkins recommended the approval of the General Student Activity and Athletic Funds, reporting each complied with Tennessee laws, rules and regulations.

A number of amendments to board policy were considered for approval, including graduation activities, zero tolerance offenses, graduation requirements, family and medical leave, promotion and retention, alternative school programs, recommendations and file transfers, code of conduct and corporal punishment.

In regard to graduation activities, items addressed covered procedures for students who meet all graduation requirements on the day of graduation, as well as students within two or fewer credits of meeting all requirements, and who can complete the requirements during the summer may participate in the graduation ceremony. Students who do not wish to participate in graduation ceremonies may notify the school principal in writing at least five days prior to graduation and may received their diploma from the principal’s office within a week of graduation.

The amendment included the development of procedures by Dr. Watkins, to ensure students are recognized at graduation ceremonies for the following achievements: honors, state honors, state distinction, district distinction, Tri-Star scholar, students receiving a Tennessee Seal of Biliteracy, students voluntarily completing at least 10 hours of community service each semester the student is in attendance at a public school, students receiving a gold or platinum medal on National Career Readiness certificate and students graduating with a district developed work ethic distinction.

Zero tolerance offenses were spelled out through proposed amendments to policy, with regard to weapons and dangerous instruments, drugs, assault, electronic threats and the notification process when students are found to be in violation of the policy. A new addition to the zero tolerance policy addresses assaults that result in bodily injury to the list, to include assaults committed against school employees and school resource officers.

In reviewing recommended amendments to board policy for graduation requirements, the revisions included required 24 units of credit, required end of course exams, satisfactory records of attendance and conduct, ACT or SAT testing prior to graduation and the completion of a United States civics test.

Special education students may earn prescribed 22 credit minimum, and awarded a regular high school diploma.

Occupational diploma and alternate academic diploma requirements were added through the proposed amendment.

Students may meet requirements for early graduation, when achieving 18 credits, achieving benchmark scores for each required end of course exam, GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, ACT or SAT benchmark, qualifying benchmark on a world language proficiency assessment and complete at least two types of courses in AP, IB, Dual enrollment or dual credit.

Promotion and retention eligibility factors were addressed regarding policy amendments to consider student’s ability to perform at grade level, use of local or state assessments if applicable, overall academic achievement, chance for success if promoted, social and emotional maturity.

In regard to policy on corporal punishment, “it shall be administered only after other less stringent measures have failed.” The instrument to be used must be approved by the principal; and corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of another professional employee. Disciplinary records shall be maintained and contain the student’s name, type of misconduct, and type of corporal punishment administered, as well as the person administering the corporal punishment and the witness.

In regard to file transfers police, other than routine transmission of administrative and personnel files, district employees are prohibited from assisting a school employee or agent in obtaining a new job if the individual knows or has probable cause to believe that the person seeking a jo change engaged in sexual misconduct regarding minor or student in violation of law.

Neither the district nor the board shall enter into or require a current or former employee to enter into a non-disclosure agreement during a settlement for any act of sexual misconduct.