PICKENS, Ga. — The Pickens Board of Education met prior to School Board Appreciation week, where they received recognition from Director of Community Engagement Destini Shope on behalf of the community. The board also approved several purchases during the meeting.
Shope spoke briefly in anticipation of School Board Appreciation Week, a statewide initiative named through a proclamation from Governor Brian Kemp for the week of March 14, 2022. “Pickens County board members support learning initiatives in the district and work to provide students and teachers all the resources needed to be as successful as possible,” Shope said, “Additionally, the Pickens County Board of Education is debt free and has continued to decrease the education portion of the millage rate for many consecutive years.” Shope recognized each board member and noted the work required of the board outside of monthly meetings, including conferences and training events. “We cannot ask for more when it comes to a board and we are thankful for their dedication to our students, staff, and community, and we rely upon their encouragement and support to make Pickens County Schools one of the best school systems in the state.” She also presented the board members with certificates and gifts.
During the March 10 meeting, the board approved the purchase of six new school buses at a total cost of $672,000. The buses will be purchased from a new company, a move that Chief Operations Officer Stacy Gilleland said will ultimately save the county around $35,000. Vice Chair Tommy Gartrell commented on the purchase, saying “This is just a continuation of our efforts to keep a modern, safe fleet for students. None of our buses are over 10 years old, and its this plan that we use that keeps it that way so we know that all our students are in a quality bus.”
The board also approved repairs to the Pickens High School Stadium. Potential repairs include installing new seating, repainting, and resealing concrete throughout the stadium. It was also noted by several members that the repairs are both cosmetically and structurally necessary, as well as a proactive move to save money on more extensive repairs in the future. Additionally, the board approved a $269,253 greenhouse purchase for Pickens Junior High.
During his Superintendent Report, Gilleland also updated the board on several projects happening in the school district. Gilleland first noted that there was a major water main leak at the Pickens County High School that affected the school’s fire suppression system and roof leaks at several schools, but explained both issues were resolved. In a continuation of the county’s effort to employ more bus drivers, Gilleland told the board that entry level driver training classes are currently underway, following changes to training regulations.
The board also approved a resolution that allows Pickens School Board members to opt into the State Health Benefit Plan for Public School Employees. Superintendent Tony Young spoke briefly on the resolution, “All board members serve in a difficult job for $100 per meeting. This would be an added optional benefit for this board, as well as future boards.”
Pickens High School College and Career Coach Daniel Bell gave a detailed presentation to the board about his school’s dual enrollment programs. Bell primarily highlighted “Option B” dual enrollment students during his presentation. Bell explained “Option B” as a path to graduation that only requires students to take nine high school courses before moving on to some form of vocational schooling to complete an Associates Degree, a diploma program, or two technical certificates. That path, he said, is a savior for some students who would not graduate otherwise. According to Bell, 9 “Option B” PHS students will be graduating in May, and he expects that number to increase in the coming school years. Board Chair Sue Finley invited Bell to the board’s next work session to further discuss the needs of the program, and several board members expressed their desire to take action that will continue its development.
A memorandum of understanding with Brenau University that will allow Brenau students to observe classes within Pickens County schools was also approved during the meeting.