By ALICIA LEONARD
The Walton County School Board (WCSB) met in their regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. The board had spent the prior three hours in a workshop listening to presentations from construction management firms on facility needs for the Walton High Athletic Complex. The board scored the firms later in the regular meeting.
On the agenda before the board were items including contracts, transportation requests, personnel recommendations, school safety, student expulsions and insurance items.
The board opened by approving the agenda before them and by adopting the minutes from the Jan. 15 meeting and workshop unanimously.
WCSB Chairmen Mark Davis then called for public comments. With none forthcoming, the board moved to the consent portion of the agenda.
Consent agenda items included a contract for legal services between the school board and school board attorney Ben L. Holley for an extension of one year starting on Feb. 8, 2013. Approval was given of a contract between the board and Robert Perez of South Walton High School to serve as the varsity head of girls and boys soccer teams for the 2012-2013 school year. Approval was given of a contract between the board and Nicholas Zimmerman of South Walton High School to serve as assistant coach to the boys and girls soccer teams as well as an addendum to the School Resource Deputy (SRD) contract with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) for the 2012-2013 school year to cover SRDs placed in elementary schools.
Walton County School Superintendent Carlene Anderson addressed the board over the last item on the consent agenda. “The sheriff and I have been in discussions since mid-December and it was his offer to place deputies in the elementary schools following the Connecticut incident and that was for a temporary time. He did this at the cost of the sheriff’s department. After returning from school from the holidays, it was our intent and what we think is in the best interest of the students that we keep those deputies there until the end of the school year. Since that time, we have assembled a school security task force we will discuss on the action agenda later, but this addendum will cover the cost of those extra SRDs since we returned from the holidays on Jan. 7 until the last student day of the year. This is not a new contract, but only an addendum to the contract we already have for our middle and high school SRDs.”
The requested addendum covered six deputies covered by the addendum. One supervisory role for the added deputies would be covered by the sheriff’s office. Anderson said part of the funding for the extra security, $44,000, would be covered by “Safe School Funds” and the rest would come from a general operating fund. Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson Jr., who attended the meeting, responded to a question from WCSB member Faye Leddon concerning the contract covering SRDs after hours at schools for festivals and such, “Just want to be frank with you. We would never deny a request. I want to be clear about that, we will be there one way or the other.” Leddon thanked Adkinson for the quick response and the cooperation his office had extended to the school system. The board moved to approve the consent agenda unanimously before moving to the action portion of the agenda.
The board then moved unanimously to approve personnel recommendations. Next, the board heard from Brad Hoard, the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) representative. Hoard said back in 2008 they had moved to different plans that “changed the makeup of the claims.” Over a three-year span the group has had an almost 2-percent reduction in costs. “The plan we started using in 2008 allowed funds to come back to offset premiums directly back to the district.”
In all the WCSB will receive back $45,629 for the 2008-2010 contract year and $930,000 for the 2010-2012 contract year. Hoard said he would be bring the two checks to the district in the next few weeks and concurred with Anderson when he mentioned that the Walton County School District is one of the few remaining school districts that pay 100 percent of their employees’ health insurance.
The board then moved onto the establishment of a School Security Task Force Committee. Anderson said the establishment of a Safe Schools Task Force was need for the security of not only the students but for the staff as well. Anderson mentioned that a long-term goal of safety could be something the board could consider when looking at new construction.
“We are in the process of building schools now, so this is something this task force could be bringing to you in the future,” she added. A sub group of the task force will be going out to each school and looking at schools for safety issues with “a new set of eyes,” Anderson said.
Adkinson addressed the board. “I think you are being very proactive and forward thinking in how you are addressing this. These are your schools. In no way does the sheriff’s office want to interfere in how you educate the students. You are the educational experts. What we are trying to add is a partnership, organic if you will, over security concerns. That’s what we do as well. I think this is a great opportunity to consider all the ramifications involved, physical and fiscal and our staffs to understand everything involved that will ultimately make our children safer.”
Adkinson said his office was paying for their part of the safety agreements with drug forfeiture funds and “turning bad money into good.” Adkinson added he thought Anderson should be commended on the quick action and separation of specific time goals, such as short, medium and long range issues. Adkinson also mentioned the placement of the deputies in the elementary schools was going well. Upon asking one of his deputies how the children received his presence the deputy responded, “It’s like I’m a super hero. I’m shoe tying and high-fivin’ all day long.” The board moved to approve the task force unanimously.
The board then moved onto the selection of construction management firms for the Walton High School Athletic Complex. The board had earlier in the day had watched presentations from six different firms. After selections, the following firms were ranked in order of the top three: LLT Building Corporation came in first, Elkins Construction Inc. and Lord and Son Construction tied for second place and Peter Brown Construction came in third. The board then moved unanimously to renew the pre-qualification of construction firms already on file as well as set times to hear presentations from architectural firms for Walton Middle School.
The board then approved three student expulsions unanimously before discussing workshop dates and adjourning.
To see more about school board meetings, agendas and workshops, go to www.walton.k12.fl.us/board. The next board meeting will be on Feb. 19 at 5 p.m.