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Energy program survives contract changes

The push to acquire reductions in energy consumption throughout the Claiborne school system had the members of the school board proverbially ‘jumping through hoops’ to get the contract approved by county government. The Claiborne Commission requested, during its last meeting, that the school board go back to the table to rework alternatives to the proposed Energy Systems Group (ESG) contract. Apparently, the $39,650 detailed assessment, the next step once the contract is signed, gave the commissioners pause. The county would have been responsible for the cost if it chose not to continue with ESG.

Dr. Joseph Miller, director of schools, announced last week during the regular school board meeting that there had been a revamping of the proposed contract. Miller said that verbiage had been changed in clause 4, on page two of the agreement.

“More specifically, the information with that money upfront for ESG on that $39,650 has been removed and the verbiage has been changed to indicate that ESG is willing to take the project on and move forward with it, at risk,” said Miller.

He also said both county attorney James Estep III and the ESG legal team had reviewed and approved the changes.

The board unanimously approved the updated agreement. If adopted by the Claiborne Commission, the project implementation date is tentatively set for March 20.

In other action, the board unanimously adopted a policy revision for Workers’ Compensation, as recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association guidelines modeling new federal and state laws.

The new policy is lengthened by six additional lines.

“The board shall establish a medical panel consisting of at least three or more reputable physicians or surgeons who are not associated together in practice, if available. The names of the physicians or surgeons shall be posted in conspicuous places throughout the maintenance, transportation, clerical, and professional areas of participating schools. Any claimant may select an operating surgeon or attending physician listed on the medical panel for treatment of on-the-job injuries. Any specialized treatment of injuries must be administered by practitioners or specialists upon referral by the medical panel,” reads the revised policy.

The school system will be bidding property liability insurance to see if a cheaper alternative is available. The current policy, with Tennessee Risk Management, costs the county $441,000 in premiums, including a two percent cost savings, according to Miller.

He cautioned the board to be aware of the possible loss of the two percent savings if the insurance is opened for bid.

During his general report, Miller said the school district had hired a social worker, pending a background check, the day before the meeting.

“We feel that’s going to be an exciting part, in addition to our staff. One of the things we are doing right now is putting a lot of emphasis on attendance….We want them in school,” said Miller, adding that attendance rates impact graduation rates.

The Title I monies will likely ‘take a hit,’ said Miller due to the reduction of the county poverty rate. In 2015, the poverty rate was 30 percent. In just one year, the rate lowered by two percent, he said.

A new state transportation law goes into effect on Jan. 1 which will allow the public to dial a number to complain about perceived safety issues. Miller said the number is in the process of being created and will be posted shortly.

Preliminary scores on this year’s benchmark tests, which began in September and will run through the school year, show growth in grades 3-8 math, said Miller.

The English/language arts tests for grades three and six also show growth, he said.

“Be reminded that those standards were changed. A year ago, kids tested under more rigorous standards.

“As we move forward, we would like to think we will be somewhat consistent with the ways we are teaching throughout the district. I’ve asked principals to be in classrooms. I want to be sure they are in there visiting and watching teachers teach and not just for evaluation purposes,” said Miller.

Clairfield Elementary snagged the highest attendance record for the month of November. The school average was 95.8 percent. Every school within the district maintained an average of 90.8 percent or higher, during the same timeframe.