The first order of business at Thursday’s Tipton County School Board meeting was to welcome Dr. Grant Shipley as its newest board member.

Sworn in by Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman right before the meeting started, Shipley, who served as principal of Brighton High School from 1996 to 2008, will represent District 4 and complete the unexpired term left vacant when former board member Darry Marshall resigned to take a coaching position with Liberty University in Virginia.

Shipley is excited about being on the board and looks forward to working with families to meet their children’s educational needs.

“My main motivation is really simple,” said Shipley.  “That every child have the best opportunity and to be all they can be and to help our parents help their children.”

“He’s no stranger to Tipton County and has been around education for a while and we’re really excited about him being on the board,” said school board chairman Marty Burlison, welcoming Shipley to the board.

School-Aged Child Care (SACC)

Tipton County Schools Director of Operations Dr. Charlotte Fisher asked what the school board’s direction was regarding the YMCA of Memphis’ after-school care proposal made in January.

“Please let us know if you’d like us to move forward, to do more research or leave things the way they are for now,” Fisher asked, to which, Chairman Burlison asked Director of Schools Dr. John Combs for his recommendation,

“Even though I did appreciate the presentation last month and I do think there are some good opportunities there, my inclination is to keep things as we have them for now,” said Combs. “With that said, however, I’ve read quite a few e-mails from parents and was intrigued by the suggestion of forming a parent committee to work with Dr. Turnbow to develop some new ideas we could implement within our own system.”

A vote was taken and unanimously passed to reject the YMCA’s proposal and to continue using the school system’s SACC, with the establishment of a parent committee.

Security update

Energy and Security Supervisor Glenn Turner briefed the board on several training opportunities recently presented to school administrators to share with their schools on gang awareness, active shooter drills and threat assessments.

“In addition to training, we are also using some of our security grant money to test out visitor management systems,” Turner said to the board. “We’ll be installing Lobby Guard at Munford Middle School and Raptor Tech at Crestview Middle School for a trial period to see which one we think performs the best and which one we can maximize here in the school district.”

Turner told the board in addition to being a visitor tracking system, both would scan IDs against the sex registry list.

“It’ll check the sex registry list and you’ll know in seconds whether or not they should be in your school,” said Turner. “There are several bells and whistles, including the ability to send out a distress signal with the push of a button, so it’s a little bit more than just checking visitors. We’re excited about that and each one of our schools will get one of those.”

Turner also took a moment to brag on Drummonds Elementary for a job well done earlier that day with an unexpected safety issue. An electric pole was discovered to be leaning at the kindergarten entrance, and in the path of the school bus route for pickups.

“Basically what they had to do was change up their whole dismissal process involving about 20 something buses and who knows how many cars,” explained Turner. “But they had it all laid out and I didn’t have to do a thing. It was awesome. I want to lift up that staff down there, the teachers and the administrators did a fabulous job getting those kids out and it only took them an additional seven minutes on dismissal and they were running just one lane for buses instead of two. They did an awesome job.”

Construction update

Donnie Wallace, maintenance supervisor, gave an update on the roofing projects started last fall for Munford Middle and Crestview Middle schools, explaining that those roofs needed to be completed, as well as a roof replacement over the kitchen and cafeteria at Covington High School.

“I’m asking to take out of the fund balance $1,250,000 to finish these roofs,” Wallace asked the school board. “There are 17 school jobs already scheduled from Memphis and Jackson this summer, so hopefully we can get in line somewhere.”

Munford Middle School needs an additional 79,000 square feet of roofing replaced, Crestview Middle has 74,000 square feet in need of replacing and 8,200 square feet is needed over Covington High’s cafeteria and kitchen.

Dr. Combs explained the urgency and the need to use money from the district’s fund balance.

“I’ve been on a roof tour of our schools and these three have absolutely floated to the top of the list,” explained Combs. “These are by far the worst in need that we have right now and why we want to take the money out of the fund balance. They need to be fixed right now.”

A motion was made and approved to use $1.25 million from the fund balance to repair the roofs.   

ESA opposition

The members of the Tipton County Board of Education presented a resolution written in opposition to publicly-funded education savings accounts, which could be implemented by the Tennessee General Assembly during the 2019 legislative session.  The strongly worded resolution, which will be sent to the Tennessee General Assembly, explained the county’s school board resistance to such educational accounts, including the lack of accountability of funds, unfair and non-equal distribution for students, potential for fraud, and the fact that it diverts much need funds from public education.  

District 5 board member Farrel Vincent explained why he opposes the creation of ESAs using public school funds.

“I have three main reasons why I support this resolution,” he said. “First, I don’t think we should take money from our public schools and send it to unaccountable private schools, especially since they can pick and choose those students they will accept. Second, I don’t think it’s constitutional to do so.  Our state constitution says our legislature is to provide for “free public education.” Finally, I’ve done a lot of research, and have found absolutely no data indicating that Educational Savings Accounts, [another term for vouchers] have had any positive academic impact for students.”

The motion was made and passed to have the resolution signed by all board members and Combs.

Board of Distinction

At the end of the meeting, Dr. Combs presented the board with a Board of Distinction award.

“The previous board, which some of you were on, went through an intensive process to become a Board of Distinction from 2012-2014,” said Combs. “Now you also have completed quite the checklist to become a Board of Distinction once again, which will run through 2018-2020. I want to say congratulations for all your hard work to get there – attending meetings, training and participating in the retreat,” said Combs, presenting the board members with their new plaque.

“Congratulations," he said. "You all did a great job.”  

The Tipton County School Board meets on the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Board of Education. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.  

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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