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BOE votes to change to seven period days in 02-03

By By ROBBIE BYRD
News Editor
Block scheduling for next year will be "blocked out."
The Escambia County School Board voted Thursday to remove block scheduling for all three county high schools and revert to seven periods a day.
The board voted 6-1 on the change the schedule starting with the 2002-2003 school year. Board member Richard Hawthorne was the only member to vote no to the change.
Board member Danny Benjamin said that the board's vote was in the best interest of the school system.
"This has been a very tough decision," Benjamin said. "We appreciate everyone's comments. What we did and what we do will always be for the betterment of the school and community."
The vote came after concern of lowering test scores and the inability of the county to afford extra teaching units, which according to superintendent of schools Melvin F.
"Buck" Powell is unattainable with the county's current funds.
"The idea with the block schedule was to provide extra opportunities for electives," Powell said. "But due to the lack (of the county's ability to pay for) extra teacher units we couldn't offer that. We had kids taking PE over and over."
Under the block schedule a student spends approximately 90 minutes per class, but that class only lasts one semester.
Powell said this caused a large time gap between sequential subjects, reducing retention and graduation exam scores.
"With the block schedule there can be a big gap between Algebra I to Algebra II, or eleventh grade English to twelfth grade English," Powell said. "Sometimes it could be as much as a year and a half between taking Algebra I and Algebra II. If a child is taking tests between that time and has not practiced those skills it could hurt his test scores. That means a year and a half without any practice in those math skills. The biggest problem is the length of time in between taking (sequence classes)."
The idea was evaluated before Powell became superintendent, and after deliberation with school officials and instructional advisers, Powell decided to bring the decision before the board.
"The idea had been kicked around even before I got here," Powell said. "I had a problem with it as a parent before I (was appointed superintendent), and after reviewing statewide surveys, it seemed to be the direction schools were going, particularly smaller schools with less money."
Powell said he consulted staff and faculty at county schools before making the decision, and only Flomaton wanted to keep the block schedule.
"There was a lot of thought that went into this vote," Powell said. "Our school board has had a big job with a big decision. I admire them."
The board also approved a bid for school bus video systems to M &J Controls, Inc. to provide video cameras for county buses.
The board plans to buy a camera for most of the buses, however said it will buy as many cameras "as it has money for."
M&J Controls was the low bidder for the contract, but were also the only provider of such equipment.
Powell also announced that the school system had been awarded $687,000 for capital improvement projects at three county schools.
The state awarded a $485,000 grant, and the system also received a $202,000 grant from the federal government.
The money will be used to place a new roof at Flomaton Elementary, fix a leaking roof at the Escambia County High School gymnasium and place new carpet at W.S. Neal High School.
The board plans to solicit bids for these projects at next months meeting, scheduled for Feb. 21 at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Flomaton High School.
In other business the board:
approved the accounts payable for the month;
approved the minutes from last months meeting;
expelled 5 students in an executive session: one student from ECHS for the rest of this school year with counseling, one student from ECHS for a complete calendar year, and two students from the Alternative School for a complete calendar year;
approved fifteen new employment requests: Lieutenant Mario Michael DeLuca, NJROTC instructor, ECHS, effective Jan. 14, Jean Baker, second vocational bus driver, Brewton bus shop, effective Jan. 16, Martha Simmons, custodian, W.S. Neal Middle , effective Feb. 1, Gail Bell, Smart Links community educator, Huxford Elementary, effective Jan. 15, Tami Calloway, Smart Links community educator, Huxford Elementary, effective Jan. 15, Sherry Digmon, Smart Links community educator, Huxford Elementary, effective Jan. 15, Belinda Patterson, Smart Links community educator, Huxford Elementary, effective Jan. 15, Susan Tery, Smart Links community educator, Rachel Patterson Elementary, effective Jan. 10, Cutee Atkinds, Smart Links community educator, A.C. Moore Elementary, effective Jan. 25, Debbie McDonald, teacher, Extended Day program, W.S. Neal Middle , effective Jan. 22, Kina Burkett, teacher, Extended Day program, W.S. Neal Middle , effective Jan. 22, Susan Crawford, media specialist, Extended Day program, W.S. Neal Middle, effective Jan. 16, Ken Meadows, band teacher, Extended Day program, W.S. Neal Middle , effective Jan. 22, Lisa Tindell, temporary part-time aide, Brewton bus shop, effective Jan. 24 and Kary Lassitter, Smart Links Community Educator/aide, Huxford Elementary, effective Jan. 10;
approved the resignations of Kendrick Riley, mechanic helper, Brewton bus shop, effective Jan. 3 and Marie H. Miller, bus aide, Brewton bus shop, effective Jan. 8;
approved leaves of absence for Phrann Fountain, teacher, Rachel Patterson Elementary for maternity leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, effective Jan. 24 through April 2 and Kimberly Madden, teacher, Pollard-McCall Junior High for maternity leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, effective Dec. 20 through Feb. 11;
declined a request by Wanda Rankin, bus driver, Brewton bus shop to be granted paid sick leave beyond the 90 days on-the-job injury she has already been granted.