PELL CITY -- The new Pell City Board of Education has officially been sworn in.
St. Clair County Presiding District Judge Robert Minor gave members the oath of office Tuesday. The board includes incumbents Joe Sawyer, Cecil Fomby and Laurie Henderson along with newly elected members Greg Crump and Norman Wilder.
Electing officers was the first order of business for the new board. Members unanimously elected Cecil Fomby to serve as president and Laurie Henderson to serve as vice president.
Fomby said he was honored to serve the school district, and the position is one he has served in before. He said the important part is having a good team.
“It gives you a lot of confidence when you know you have good team players that have the best interests of our district at heart, and our kids at heart,” Fomby said. “It makes my job a lot easier.”
Wilder and Crump both expressed appreciation for being on the board. Both said funding was an issue they felt needed to be addressed in the coming days.
St. Clair County voters recently approved a local amendment that sets up tax districts made up of each school attendance zone. The new districts will allow for the possibility of ad valorem taxes to be raised on a more local level without the entire county being affected.
In order to actually change taxes in Pell City’s school attendance zone, which includes Riverside and other parts of the county, a petition of at least 50 people is required to begin the process.
Once the petition is filed, the school board and the petitioners will work out the specific change and then ask the County Commission to hold a referendum in the district in question only. Residents (voters) in that district will then go to the polls to decide on the referendum.
Superintendent Dr. James Martin said school officials have not received a petition at this time and are instead focusing on continuing to be good stewards of public funds.
During his report to the board, Martin said there has been a slight uptick in COVID-19 numbers in the last couple days. He said the eighth-grade boys and seventh-grade girls basketball teams are currently under quarantine.
Martin said the pandemic situation remains a moving target, but he would prefer to have all students in school. The superintendent said only 19 percent of students who have returned their second semester declaration forms have chosen virtual instruction.
He also said there are plans to end the A/B schedule in grades 7-12 beginning in January.
“As we all know with the COVID situation, everything is subject to change because the situation is evolving,” Martin said. “We have to keep safety first, but at the same time, we’ve got to educate students.”
Martin also addressed concerns there will be a school shutdown between Thanksgiving and Christmas due to the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the state. He said Pell City Schools does not plan any such shutdown at this time.
“We’re not shutting down between Thanksgiving and Christmas unless the government tells us to shut down,” Martin said. “That's not going to happen unless something goes very far south for us and we have to.”
In other matters, the board:
Approved the hiring of Breanna Carr (fifth-grade virtual learning teacher at Williams Intermediate School), Michael Campbell (bus driver) and James Rowan (bus driver);
Approved hiring substitute teachers Evelyn Beasley, Matthea Glass and Samantha Pierce;
Approved contracts with Laycie Bunt (after-hours instructor) and Paige Siegler (after-hours instructor);
Approved a leave-of-absence for Elizabeth Freeman (gifted specialist);
Approved the retirement of Tammy Mitchell (librarian at Pell City High School), Dorita Carter (title 1 paraprofessional at Eden Elementary School), Bill Newton (bus driver) and Patricia Carter (bus driver);
Approved the resignation of Conda Crowe (bus driver);
Approved hiring Whitney Lenoir to a supplemental position (yearbook sponsor at Iola Roberts Elementary School);
Approved the revised Center for Education and Performing Arts (CEPA) rental packet as presented by Director Jeff Thompson. This measure was previously approved by the Pell City Council;
Approved an amendment to the 2020-21 salary schedule to increase the salary for First Class Pre-K auxiliary teachers from $19,992.10 to $20,000, which is the minimum salary required for all public and non-public school auxiliary teachers. This will result in a $7.90 increase for the year per teacher; and
Approved accounts payable for October in the amount of $603,809.84.