April 15, 2014

Whitfield adds two days to school calendar for next school year

By Christopher Smith

— Sometimes they come to work and don’t get paid.

Whitfield County Schools teachers often need some off-the-clock time to get prepared for classes during the first days of a school year, Superintendent Judy Gilreath said. Those teachers, who put passion over paychecks, now have one more paid day to help morale.

Members of the Board of Education voted on Monday to move the first day of pre-planning for the 2015 school year to Monday, Aug. 4, instead of Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Board members also approved another day of instruction for Friday, Dec. 19. That day was set to be the start of winter break and will now act as an early dismissal day, school officials said.

The school system cut 10 staff days from the staff contract of 190 days and cut five instruction days from the 180-day student calendar in 2011 to stave off a financial crisis when local and state funding tightened during the economic recession. The two days approved Monday are the first restored days since those cuts.

“One of my goals this year was to get some of those lost days back,” Gilreath said. “Teachers, to feel prepared, they go in and get things ready before the official start of school and they don’t get paid for it. This will help them out a little bit.”

The additional two days will cost the school system roughly $900,000 more in operating expenses compared to last year, Gilreath said. Daniel Theis, the school system’s chief financial officer, can not provide an up-to-date proposed budget until next week as he crunches numbers, she said. Theis did not immediately return a phone message left for him on Tuesday.

The budget for fiscal year 2014, which began on July 1, 2013, and ends June 30 of this year, anticipated $99.5 million in revenues and $100.3 million in expenses. The fiscal year 2013 budget included $94 million in revenues and $97.6 million in expenses.

Gilreath said the need to restore two days outweighs the $900,000 it will cost.

“I felt we could financially afford this,” she said. “The goal is to get us back to where we were. When you look at it, this is a small amount in each teacher’s monthly check. It shows the appreciation we have for the teachers.”

School system adopts tobacco-free policy

Board members also approved a tobacco-free policy Monday night that applies to students, staff and visitors. The policy states that the use of any tobacco product at any time on school property or at school events is prohibited. The policy also bans electronic cigarettes.

“Although Whitfield County Schools has been a tobacco-free system since 2001, the revised policy will bring us more in line with the state criteria required in order to be officially designated by the state as tobacco free,” Gilreath said in a press release provided by the North Georgia Health District.

Scouts from the Girl Scout Brownie Troop of New Hope Elementary School (Troop 12617), aided by representatives of the health district, requested the board update the tobacco policy to become a “100 percent tobacco-free school district.”

Troop members attended Monday’s meeting and made a presentation to the board prior to the vote.

“It is so encouraging to see this young troop of girls actively involved in making our community healthier for all of us,” Gilreath said in the press release. “Troop 12617 and their adult leaders are to be commended for leading this effort."

The health district will support the decision by providing signage, along with an education campaign.