The Dragon Opportunity and Virtual Academy (DOVA) building will house five classrooms for vastly different programs.
The Pickens school board held a quick regular meeting July 11 with their chair Tucker Green using Skype to lead the meeting while on vacation. This marks the first time that Green, who is a UGA student, has used the teleconferencing option. A board member is allowed to participate in two meetings a year via teleconferencing.
Several board members said the meeting went okay and the superintendent commented at end of the board
comments section that the system had worked well enough. Green could see the action in the room via video but the public saw only Green’s empty chair and heard his voice from the speakers.
Among the business handled:
• A salary schedule for certified teachers was approved. Because Pickens is a “strategic waiver” system, the school system can waive the state pay-scale but the local system has always followed the state pay model, adding an additional 10 percent local supplement.
Superintendent Wilson said most surrounding systems offer somewhere between eight and 10 percent in local supplements. Wilson said most metro counties offer 10 percent supplements so that teachers in Pickens and those in most surrounding areas earn the same amounts. When Governor Brian Kemp gave all Georgia teachers a $3,000 pay raise this year, the local system here added the additional $300 to go with that as a supplement.
The pay schedule adopted begins with entry level teachers with no additional educational degrees starting at $38,738 (state $35,217 and $3,521 in local supplement) a year.
At the high end of the scale, teachers with more than 21 years of experience and a full PhD would earn $84,678 ($76,980 in the state portion and $7,698 local supplement).
Wilson, who offered follow-up comments while at a state conference, said they had just been discussing how there is a very high turnover rate among teachers in Georgia. More than half of all teachers hired do not last more than four years. He said statistics at the conference say that half of all new teachers will leave the field in the first four years.
• Assistant Superintendent Tony Young reported that work on the DOVA building, behind the main PHS campus has been unbelievably fast. “Three weeks ago there was not a building and now there is,” said Young.
In comments after the meeting, the superintendent elaborated that DOVA is the Dragon Opportunity and Virtual Academy. It is a five-classroom building that houses students in vastly different programs. He said there has been some confusion by parents and community on the DOVA program. Dragon Opportunity is the alternative school for students with disciplinary issues/punishments. It was previously operated under a number of different configurations but last year was taken in-house and streamlined. Wilson said the final test scores of students in the program last year show they are moving in the right direction. Last year they saw around 100 students in the program for differing lengths of time. Many of the students are required to stay in the alternative program for a semester or a full school year. Last year due to the vaping epidemic, there were a lot of students sent there for only a few weeks for the non-illegal vaping infractions.
The Virtual Academy part of the program has several different sources of students, including some homeschool students who take their classes through the program and participate in high school extra-curricular activities; students seeking advanced classes not regularly offered; students who are dual-enrolled in Chattahoochee Tech but have scheduling issues and some students who just prefer smaller classroom settings. “We have a lot of different avenues to success,” said Wilson.
•Work is continuing on schedule at the junior high school on Refuge Road. “When you look at it, it makes you nervous,” Young told the board. “But when you talk to the construction guys they say it is on schedule and will be ready to open.”
•The school summer lunch program served 9,628 lunches at four different sites in the month of June. This comes to 50 lunches for each site, each day. Young praised the work of school nutrition officer Beth Thompson. “Hats off to Beth to make that program a success and based on the numbers I would say it is a success,” he said.
•The schools will be breaking ground at any time and expect the renovation of the softball area/parking area in front of the high school to be complete by the fall. “We really hope that if we have luck with the weather and it all falls in place we can play our senior game on the field,” he said.
Wilson explained after the meeting that they will renovate the softball field, add a baseball field and a multi-use athletic building for numerous sport teams to use, including locker rooms and an open space for practices inside.
This work will also include reconfiguring and expanding the front parking to give an additional 350 parking spots and a more efficient traffic-pattern at the front of the school.