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Board of Education gives go-ahead to MOU for early learning center

July 12, 2018

Rome Board of Education members have given the go-ahead for Superintendent Lou Byars to share the eighth version of a new memorandum of understanding with the school system’s two partners for the South Rome Early Learning Center.

Board members did not vote on the MOU with Berry College and the South Rome Redevelopment Corp., rather they just OK’d the current version during caucus Tuesday. The goal is for the three partners to reach an agreement on the MOU before the next round of 3-year-olds start at the center at the end of the month, Byars said. However, whether that is done or not depends on the response from the partners.

Board member Alvin Jackson asked Byars if the school system has any financial liability in the center. Around $15,000 from a $1.26 million L4GA grant the system received would be used to pay for supplies and professional learning, Byars responded.

This $15,000 is an estimate, an exact figure has not been set so the system is not fixed on a specific grant contribution, said Assistant Superintendent Dawn Williams.

The system has to finalize a grant budget on how the funds will be used and have it approved by the state Department of Education, Byars said. This spending on the early learning center would be included in the “birth to 5” category of the grant, which covers literacy initiatives from birth to 12th grade.

Byars also told the board during caucus he has resigned as a member of the SRRC board of directors after he was elected to the position in May. His resignation was due to the planned use of literacy grant money on the center, he said. There will not be a school system presence on the SRRC board, he continued.

“It does not look good,” he said. “Not that there is anything nefarious.”

From the school system’s perspective on the MOU, it wants to ensure there is not a repeat problem like earlier this year, when requests were made for the system to allocate over $100,000 to pay the salaries of the two lead teachers and two assistant teachers. The system is not going to do this, and officials want to make sure a similar problem — of the center needing its financial support — does not arise in the future.

Some major grant funding for the center ended earlier this year and the SRRC had a deficit in its fundraising goal of $50,000, leading to the school system being turned to for financial assistance. However, the center was recently awarded a grant which will pay the tuition of 10 students for the next school year.

Also, the center is now a participating school in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, a student scholarship organization, which individuals and corporations can donate to for tax credits. The donations are earmarked for a specific school, such as the SRELC, to provide scholarships for prospective students.

Also during caucus, the board decided to hold off on putting a proposed $57,000 agreement with V3 Publications on Tuesday’s agenda, opting to take it up at next month’s meeting.

Byars has met with V3 staff members and shared with board members what the company would offer — including marketing, public relations and social media analysis. He also shared their staff’s background in corporate marketing and the company’s plans to get into television and blogging, in response to Board Chairwoman Faith Collins inquiring about their qualifications.

“They really didn’t put anything different in their” proposal than what the school system already does, said Collins.

“We definitely don’t need to make a decision until everybody is clear what we’re voting for,” she continued.

Board member Elaina Beeman joined Collins in wishing to hold off on a decision until further questions are answered.

The board approved over two dozen personnel changes during the meeting.

Under the changes, North Heights kindergarten teacher Sabrina Teems will become the gifted coordinator at the central office and East Central Elementary math coach Patricia Waters will take on the math coordinator role for the system — both effective July 16. Also, the board approved literacy coordinator Cassandra Parson’s request to be released from her 2018-2019 employment contract; it carries an effective date of June 7.

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