NEWBERRY — The end of Newberry High’s construction tunnel is in sight.
Newberry County School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jim Suber gave an update on the progress at Monday’s school board meeting.
“We are nearing the end,” said Suber.
Completed projects include the front canopy, front sidewalks and the front entrance’s paving on the horseshoe. The mini theater and the front addition still have some work to be completed, Suber said along with other “punch list items” such as painting and flooring.
The project began the beginning of last summer in June with Suber giving monthly updates about the $2.6 million project coming from capital project funds. This is the school’s first construction project in five years with the last project being a heating and air (HVAC) project. Suber said the project is on target with the budget.
The ultimate purposes were to make the building more secure and update the building.
Suber also reported on security measures the school district has taken and continues to take especially after the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“We are proactive and forward thinking,” said Suber, “and want to provide a safe and secure environment. A majority of the schools are designed so that visitors are funneled to the front entrance.”
A hundred percent of the campuses have cameras which equates to about 490 indoor and outdoor security cameras.
Suber recommended that the board look at repairs for the cameras during the upcoming budget season since a majority of the cameras are at or over their three-year limit.
The schools also have a phone system through which the school’s staff can have a direct line of communication with the front or the district’s administration.
Suber also reported that several of the schools have photo identification processes in the front office during which visitors’ driver’s licenses are scanned or their photo is taken when signing in. The photo sign-in prints out a sticker to be worn by the visitor and also requires the person to sign out.
Suber also said “36 out of 56 school buses have surveillance cameras installed” and school resource officers are stationed at every middle and high school.
“We do not have a SRO on elementary school campuses or at the alternative school,” said Suber, but he pointed out that deputies with the sheriff’s department are available upon request. “It’s a wonderful relationship we (the school district) have with law enforcement.”
The schools do have comprehensive lock down procedures, crises training for intruders and threats and other natural disaster plans that are practiced regularly.
Suber added that Major Todd Johnson with the sheriff’s department is trained in crises preparedness and goes across the country talking and sharing this information. Johnson assists the district with plans for safer schools.
In other business, the school board gave Superintendent Bennie Bennett an “exemplary” evaluation. The evaluation was done in executive session that night.
“We were very pleased with each part of the evaluation and look forward to the upcoming years,” said Jody Hamm, chairman of the board. Hamm added Bennett received an additional five days of vacation to take.
The board’s officers were also appointed and will remain the same this year. Hamm continues as chairman, Lee Attaway as vice chairman, Clyde Hill as secretary and Lucy Anne Meetze as the legislative liason. All board members were in favor of keeping the officers the same.
Next year’s calendar
Bennett said a draft of the 2013-14 school calendar was available and requested input from teachers, administrators and parents. The calendar draft will be on the school district’s website — www.newberry.k12.sc.us — the end of this week for parents to review and comment on.
At the February school board meeting, the board will finalize the calendar for the upcoming school year. The next meeting is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at The Learning Center.
Plans for Improvement
Cynthia Downs, assistant superintendent of instruction, brought forth the Superintendent’s Support of Schools Plans for Improvement and three schools improvement plans whose growth rating were at least below average from the state’s report cards last year.
The growth rating is a measure from the previous year to the next year. Mid-Carolina High and Newberry High received below average while the Newberry County Career Center received an at-risk rating.
The principals gave a report as to what they plan to do to bring up the rating for next year as required by the Education Accountability Act of 1998.
Mid-Carolina High’s Principal Ray Cooper said they are identifying the date and what their students need. Two areas that they will work on are end of course scores in history and second year High School Achievement Performance (HSAP) test takers.
Newberry High’s Katrina Singletary said they are working on their high school improvement grant, implementing power strategies in the classroom, taking steps to improve math, tweaking their Freshmen Academy and restructuring their guidance department so students can work with one counselor throughout their high school year after ninth grade.
The career center’s director Buddy Livingston said they are identifying those students whose average dipped below a 76 and identifying their needs and boosting scores.
He points out that of 100 students, only six could score a C average or less which affected their results.
The board approved the schools’ plans for improvement.