After failing to adopt it last month, the DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night approved a plan to fund the cost of having persons direct traffic in the school zones during the mornings and afternoons at Northside Elementary, DCHS, and DeKalb Middle School.
Under the plan, the Board of Education, City of Smithville, and DeKalb County government will each fund one third of the cost.
The proposal has been under consideration for several weeks. The city and county had already approved the partnership under a memorandum of understanding, but last month the school board failed to adopt it on a 3-3 vote. Board members Kenny Rhody, Billy Miller, and Bruce Parsley had voted for it but members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, John David Foutch, and Charles Robinson voted against it. One member, Johnny Lattimore was absent. Some board members believe the school system should not be in the business of traffic enforcement.
Board Chairman Charles Robinson, during Thursday night's meeting, said Board member Billy Miller had requested that the issue be raised again. "At our last meeting, an update of a workshop conducted by the DeKalb County Commission on October 21st was discussed. At this workshop, county government agreed to hire and train personnel to direct traffic at Northside Elementary, DCHS, and DeKalb Middle School. A contract or memorandum of understanding was to be prepared by the county attorney on how funding would be handled. Prior to this, city and county government had agreed to fund $3,000 each and proposed that the board of education also contribute $3,000 during a meeting on October 1st in which representatives of the board of education were unable to attend. After some discussion on the role of the DeKalb County Schools involving traffic control on public roadways as well as funding issues, a motion was made by Mr. Rhody to fund the $3,000 and with a roll call vote the motion failed. Mr. Miller has made a request to revisit this issue at tonight's meeting."
Miller then explained his reason for wanting to bring it back up. "I have talked to several people in the community and everybody that I have talked to, two to one has suggested that they want somebody out there directing traffic. I know there are several people on the board and in the community who think that it's not the school board's responsibility and it may not be. But I think it is the school board's responsibility to make sure that our kids get to and from school safely. If that means that we have to put up $3,000 to make sure that's done per year then I think that we should do that. I don't think that is necessarily making us traffic cops no more than us serving lunch at school each day would make us running a cafeteria. It's part of the education process. I make a motion that we take the money this year, send somebody out there as traffic controllers and then we bring this issue back up in May, so that we can revisit this issue while the students are out for the summer. We can revamp it on a yearly basis."
Board member Evins suggested that the board make specific in the motion that the appropriation is for one third of the cost, up to $3,000 since we're already nearly half way through this school year and may not need to spend the entire $3,000. Evins also called for an independent study of the Northside Elementary School Zone by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to determine if there are better alternatives for traffic control there.
Board Chairman Robinson explained how that an MTAS study could be beneficial. "It's an agency of the University of Tennessee's Institute for Public Service and they provide technical assistance to cities and towns. Their consultants will assist in the development of practical and individual solutions. They will provide consultants who specialize in most areas of municipal operation. They also have a person who specializes in police matters including traffic. Mr. Evins once mentioned about the feasibility of using Smith Road as an entrance to an exit from the school. If we were to ask this guy (consultant) for a traffic study, we may have enough information to actually erect a traffic control device at the intersection of Highway 56 north and Smith Road that would allow entrance and exit during school time or have the sensors that operate the signals. I would recommend that we have this guy do the study which would look at all facets."
The board, by a unison voice vote, approved the plan. No one voiced any opposition. All seven board members were present Thursday night.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly report on personnel.
Those employed since last month include:
Gary Good, special education assistant at DeKalb West School
Dana Davenport, substitute cafeteria worker
Talitha Looney, cafeteria worker at Smithville Elementary School
Cerina Craig, part-time PTA
Eric Snow, transferred from substitute bus driver to full time bus driver position
Tayla Turner, transferred from substitute teacher to educational assistant at Northside Elementary School
Leave of Absence:
Kathy Bryant, teacher at Northside Elementary, leave as requested
Melvin Riley, bus driver
Glyn Taylor, bus assistant