Obion County’s students to benefit from $235,000 grant for electronic devices

by Benita Fuzzell

Members of the Obion County Board of Education heard good news from Director of Schools Tim Watkins when they met for monthly session Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Board office in Union City, Tenn.

During his Director’s report, Watkins shared with board members Chair Fritz Fussell, Keisha Hooper, Tim Britt, Barry Adams, Kyle Baggett and Shannon Hogg the system had been notified of the awarding of a grant which would furnish an electronic device to every student within the system in grades four through 12.

“We had requested $80,000 and when the notification was made, we were awarded $235,000,” Watkins said.

He also reported an additional $60,000 in grant funding had been acquired, earmarked for technology upgrades for staff devices, to better equip for implementing distance learning circumstances, not just for students, but also for teachers who could have to teach from a different location than the classroom.

Watkins said he had the opportunity to observe a classroom situation recently at Lake Road, where a math teacher was conducting class from another location, and the students were in the classroom for the instruction, with an educational assistant in the classroom with them.

“There is nothing better than a teacher being there, but watching that teacher teach like that, it was a great job being done to teach those students that way,” Watkins added.

“If anything good has come out of any of this, this year, it has been that Obion County Schools has made major improvements in technology,” he said.

Board members reviewed the personnel report which included resignations submitted by Russell Milligan, Bus Driver and Hillcrest; new hires including Melanie Curlin, Interim Math Teacher at Obion County Central High School; and Keisha Mosley, Food Service at Obion County Central High School. A Leave of Absence was approved for Allison Montgomery, School Nurse at South Fulton Middle/High School, starting in December; and Orville Lambdin, Custodian/Obion County Central High School.

Substitute teachers approved were Laura Taylor, Crystal Genovese and Laura Buckland.

Board members approved a request submitted by Shawn Johnson, Athletic Director for Ridgemont Elementary, for the dedication and naming of the school’s softball field, to honor Sarah Hobbs, with Watkins recommending the approval as well, for the dedication and renaming.

In the letter submitted, Johnson stated 90 signatures were obtained on a petition to rename the field Sarah Hobbs Field, with a company available to design a sign to be place above the current scoreboard.

“Mrs. Hobbs is a dedicated employee of the Obion County School System and has over 51 years of experience. she is our current bookkeeper and she ensures that our school and athletics are maintained” the letter states.

One bid was received for an Enrollment for Education Solutions, EES, Agreement, from CDW, in the amount of $39,024, Microsoft 365.A3, subscription license, quantity of 600; Microsoft 365.A3, subscription license, quantity of 4000; and Microsoft Windows Azure subscription license, quantity of six.

Watkins recommended the acceptance of the bid, with the board approving the recommendation.

Board members were provided with information regarding the Obion County Schools Technology Departments request for board approval on the contracts and protection plan agreements presented for the computing devices to be distributed to students in the system. Watkins said the provision and signing of the documents necessary to provide students with electronic devices, in advance of actually distributing the devices, will speed up the process once the devices arrive.

The devices to be provided to the students, have yet to arrive.

“They have been ordered and they are out there floating around in the ocean somewhere,” Watkins said.

“We hope to start getting this paperwork signed after Fall break so that when the devices get here, we can hand them out. I have let everyone know in the central office that when those devices get here, we are all going to stop what we are doing and get all of those things inventoried so we can get them to our students,” Watkins said.

Contract and protection plans submitted for approval included the OCS Acceptable Use Policy for Network Access and Resources (Parent/Guardian and Student); Parent/Guardian Term of Use and Protection Plan Agreement; and Student Computing Device Contract.

In association with the proposed contracts and plan agreements, board policies were also provided to board members, associated with Rights and Responsibilities, Board Policy 6.301; Student Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying, Cyber-Bullying and Intimidation, Board Policy 6.304; Student Fees and Fines, Board Policy 6.709; and Use of the Internet, Board Policy 4.406.

In the Acceptable Use Policy for Network Access and Resources, it states all access to the Obion County Schools network shall be pre-approved by the principal or program manager, and the school or office may restrict or terminate any user’s access without prior notice, if such action is deemed necessary to maintain computing availability and security for other users.

Designated as part of the Acceptable Use Policy, topics addressed include respect for others; ethical conduct for users; respect for property; and appropriate use.

The declaration of understanding and adherence included in the policy must be signed by the student and parent/guardian.

The Terms of Use and Protection Plan Agreement must be completed by the student’s parent/guardian, regarding options for an Annual OCS Protection plan payment of $30 to cover the child’s assigned device for the full replacement cost of accidental or unintentional damage totalling up to $250. Parents or guardians must designate on the form their preference to pay the $30 for the protection plan or take full responsibility financially in the amount of up to $250 for their child’s device and decline the protection plan.

Multi-child discounts are available for the plan, one child, $30; two children, $50; and three children, $75.

A Student Computing Device Contract is also required to be read and signed by the student.

With Watkins’ recommendation for approval, the board approved the contracts and agreements.

An item added to the original agenda, a Hold Harmless Resolution, was approved by the board, according to Watkins the same resolution had been considered and approved by the Budget Committee of the Obion County Commission earlier in the day. He said with the BOE approval the resolution would move ahead for consideration by the full county commission.

The resolution, Watkins said, was a joint recommendation from the Tennessee School Board Association as well as the Tennessee Organization for School Superintendents, all school districts and county courts.

The resolution is to request of the state legislature, for schools to be “held harmless” in regard to possible decreases in funding for, among other areas, special education and meal participation, in hopes of being assured to receive, at a minimum, the same amount of funding as the 2020-2021, for the 2021-2022 school year.

“We just don’t want to see a decrease in funding because of the fluctuation of student population. Right now, we have a decrease of about 100 from last year. That’s something we might normally have control over but this year, we do not have control over it. We could gain some or we could lose more than that,” Watkins said.

Board of Education member Jared Poore was absent from the meeting.