MARIETTA – The Marietta City School Board unanimously decided Tuesday night to move forward with a $90,000 study that will allow the district to have an outside agency help them re-examine their finances, human resources and school designs.
The board also unanimously approved a five-question parent survey that will assist the district in preparing the next three-year strategic plan, and heard from the principals at Burruss Elementary and Marietta Center for Advanced Academics about how their schools performed last year, and also got an update on the Marietta High School auditorium.
A few items that they also talked about, but will not vote on until Tuesday, is a Memorandum of Understanding with SeongDong District Office of Education in Korea and a Memorandum of Agreement to purchase two new environmentally friendly school buses for the price of one.
Marietta Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck introduced the $90,000 study, which will be funded through a Race to the Top grant from the State Board of Education and involves assistance from a non-profit organization Education Resources Strategies Inc. (ERS) of Massachusetts.
“This is an organization that can dig deep into the data,” Lembeck told board members. “ERS has a lot of experience working with large urban school districts.”
In examining the district’s data, the superintendent said the study will determine things such as the way they are currently using funds to get the best results, using staff to get the best student achievement they can and see how teachers are using their student/teacher time in terms of planning or tutoring.
Board Chair Jill Mutimer said she was “very excited” about the study and Vice Chair Randy Weiner said he felt like it could be “very valuable” to the district.
“I think this could be very beneficial,” Mutimer said. “I commend the staff on finding this. We need a fresh eye to look at things like this.”
The study, which the district is roughly nine months behind in starting because they were awarded the grant in August while the four other systems participating started in January or February, should be complete sometime in late 2013, Lembeck said.
Additionally, the funds from the state are being paid directly to the district, not to ERS.
In the school performance updates given by MCAA Principal Jennifer Hernandez and Burruss Principal Julie King, they both reported improvements over the 2010-2011 school year and boasted good scores for students last year, however, one thing that stood out was the decrease in the percentage of fifth-graders at both schools that did not improve over the previous year’s meet or exceeds scores or exceeds scores on skills tests.
Associate Superintendent Dayton Hibbs said they are looking into why there was a possible drop in fifth grade scores compared to the year before and even seeing if it’s what other schools and districts are experiencing.
King said that the results could be attributed to student transfers or socioeconomics but she and her staff weren’t able to put their figure on one cause.
“There was a mix of things that created a group of fifth graders that we were proud of for what they did but didn’t improve over the group before them,” she said.
In other business, Bob Sussenbach with CGLS of Atlanta presented the board with their update on the Marietta High auditorium, which is being built on the east end of campus using funds from a bond that city voters approved in March.
Sussenbach said construction, according to Torrance Construction Company of LaGrange which was assigned to the project, is on time and that they still anticipate the $8.5 million project to be complete by the end of next July as originally outlined.
“Everything underground is done and you’re about to see construction out of the ground … steel will be delivered in two weeks,” he said.
He also said CGLS is currently working on the bid documents for the interior renovation package that will include converting the existing band rehearsal room to a dance studio, increasing the size of the existing choral suite and adding a cross corridor.
The board also briefly talked about the arrangement with SeongDong District Office of Education in Korea, which allows students to come participate in classes in Marietta for three weeks.
Lembeck said she will attend the official signing of the partnership in October in Korea and that this program supports the district’s IB World District status.
Through another agreement, the board will additionally consider approving an arrangement between the district, the State Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency to purchase two buses for the price of one at next week’s meeting.
The district will pay half of the replacement costs, or $78,816 total, for the two new buses.
The other agencies will pay the rest of the cost to replace the two, 20-year-old buses with ones that will “improve and enhance air quality in designated ozone non-attainment or maintenance areas” as part of the Georgia Diesel Retrofit Project and the Georgia Department of Transportation’s improvement plan.
The district has previously received grant money to retrofit bus exhaust systems, but never to replace entire buses.
Danny Smith, the district’s director of maintenance and support, said these buses are only two of about 23 that are 20-plus years old but that the other older buses are still safe for children. The average age of the 98-bus fleet in Marietta City Schools is about 13 years old.