The Schools of Guntersville are pushing the start of school back from Aug. 5 to Aug. 11. The City School Board approved it in a special called meeting Wednesday morning on a recommendation from interim superintendent Dr. Ric Ayer.

Another calendar change was also approved by the Board. All the teachers’ professional development days will be on the front end of the schedule before students start schbool rather than having extra days added to holiday weekends for teacher training throughout the year.

“We want to maximize the time students have in the classroom and the change on the professional development will help us do that,” Dr. Ayer said.

He said the state is rolling out a new scheduling and student information program called Power Schedule.

“They are saying it will be ready by August 2,” he said. “But based on our experience in the past, we know it might be a little later than that since they are implementing a brand new system. We can’t enroll students or build schedules until this is rolled out.”

So the extra time will likely be needed.

“It extends the summer a little for the students, but that will also extend the remediation time for students over the summer,” Dr. Ayer said. Schools everywhere are facing a "learning gap" due to students missing school because of the pandemic. 

Board member Laura Kappler Roberts asked if the new Power Schedule program would eliminate the redundant paperwork parents have to fill out at the start of each school year. Dr. Ayer said it would.

“You will be able to do all of that online with the new system,” Dr. Ayer said.

Board member Whitney Mastin made a motion to approve the new school calendar. Board member Jim Beard seconded. It passed unanimously.

No Work Sessions

For some time now, the Board has held 2 meetings a month, a work session followed by a regular meeting a week later.

Dr. Ayer recommended they eliminate the work session and just hold the regular meeting. He has said previously the Board may need to have an extended work session known as a “board retreat” at some point.

Board member Whitney Mastin made a motion to adopt the meeting schedule proposed by Dr. Ayer. Jim Beard seconded. It passed unanimously.

The next meeting will be Feb. 22 at the central office. The March 15 meeting will be at Guntersville High School. They Board will also meet April 26.

Position Change

The School Board is adding two new positions to its salary schedule – maintenance foreman and grounds foreman. Previously, they only had supervisors on the pay schedule for the maintenance department.

Under the change, maintenance director Jeff Mims will be the only supervisor in the department. The other team leaders will be foremen.

“We will have you a job description at the next meeting,” Dr. Ayer said.

Adding the positions passed unanimously.

Baseball Lights

The Board is in the midst of a program to upgrade the lighting to LED on all its athletic facilities.

Dr. Ayer said a change order is needed at the baseball field.

“Basically, we got into this and realized we needed additional lights to make it as good as it can be,” he said.

The change order of $39,980 was unanimously approved with Board member Whitney Mastin abstaining. Her husband’s company, Mastin Electric, is involved in the project.

The change is being paid for from the school system’s half-cent sales tax for capital improvmeents.

Toro Purchase

The Board purchased a Toro Sand Pro 2040Z, a piece of equipment needed to groom the baseball and softball fields. The cost is $12,817 from Jerry Pate Turf & Irrigation.

$7,500 is coming from the grounds/maintenance fund and $5,317 from baseball and softball funds.

Leaves of Absence

The board approved leaves for 3 employees:

- Angela Hotalen, instructional aide at Cherokee, from Jan. 11 through March 1.

- Allison Carr-Smith, speech language pathologist at Cherokee, from May 6 through the end of the school year.

- Meredith Washburn’s catastrophic leave was extended through the end of the school year.

Additional Duties

Special education teacher Abby Litchford received an additional stipend for the Cherokee students assigned to her self-contained classroom. She had received a contract for this earlier, but it was rescinded and the new agreement put in place.

Volunteer Coaches

The Board approved 4 volunteer coaches who meet AHSAA guidelines and have passed background checks:

- Brent Davis, volunteer assistant boys soccer coach

- Keith Langner, volunteer assistant boys tennis coach

- Matt Brooks volunteer assistant middle school baseball coach

- Tyler Howe, volunteer assistant GHS baseball coach

Allergy Awareness

The Board had a first reading of an amendment to its allergy awareness policy.

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