After hearing Wednesday about the success of new career tech programs at Anniston High School, school board president Robert Houston asked career tech director Ed Sturkie how his department will keep paying for them.

“We don’t want to run out of money as students get involved,” Houston said.

Sturkie told Houston and the board about his department’s certified nursing assistant program during a Wednesday morning board meeting. The CNA program is in its second year, Sturkie said, with three students enrolled now and another six to eight expected next year. He said the program partnered with the Crawford Clinic, located next to the high school, to give students job shadowing opportunities, and was funded by the state Department of Education. Sturkie said the school spent about $5,000 on lab equipment, but most of the initial $200,000 investment remains.

Sturkie said he’s negotiating for money with various program partners, including hospitals that might benefit by employing students enrolled in the CNA program. Houston encouraged searching for grants as an income source.

“The last thing we need to do is get a program, get it started, get students interested and let it fall by the wayside,” said Houston. “It takes the wind out of (the students).”

Money and where to find it was a frequent topic in the work session, which lasted about two and a half hours. Houston later noted that grant writing is part of the school board’s strategic plan, a way to find the thousands of dollars needed to run the school system.

“We need to have somebody focused on that. It can’t be something we do every now and then,” Houston said.

Chief financial officer Jimmie Thompson discussed cost-saving measures with the board, such as scaling back bus routes to save on travel expenses and analyzing transportation costs for extracurricular activities such as sporting events.

Houston said Thompson has been bogged down by accounting problems like managing payroll and basic banking issues for the school. He said a general accountant should be handling that work, while Thompson works on analytics and financial forecasting.

“Where are we going to be in the next five years? Reducing people, reducing buildings, all that information we should be doing, that’s the stuff he should be working on a consistent basis,” Houston said.

Thompson thanked Houston for the acknowledgement. No specific hiring action was referenced during the meeting.

Amy Hurst, technology director for the school system, said the board should spend money on upgraded servers to host data that includes student information, and pay to have a vulnerability test performed to find cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the school system’s network.

During the work session, the board also:

- Planned to have its self-evaluation for the Alabama Association of School Boards in July, after a new superintendent has been hired, to make that person part of the process.

- Discussed updates to the school curriculum, a process that has already started in math and reading programs, according to interim Superintendent Marlon Jones. He said he expects a new assessment next year from the state for grades two through eight and the new curriculum should prepare students for it. He also said a common grading scale across the school system is being developed.

- Listened to explanations about cybersecurity and the school system’s network from Hurst.

- Discussed hiring a “storyteller” to create a publication explaining the changes being made in the school system, including the establishment of a strategic plan and updates to the curriculum.

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560. 

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