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DCHS Softball Parents Address School Board, Coach Poston Calls for Unity

News Editor

Photo courtesy of Dade County Schools – Work to transition the DCHS hitting facility to a weight lifting room is nearly complete, only awaiting turf that will be installed in the center. The adjustments and renovations have led to some concern from the softball team and parents, as expressed during the August BOE meeting.

The first Dade County Board of Education meeting of the school year covered many topics, including a proposed satellite Primary Healthcare clinic at one of the schools, shifts in the weight training/hitting facilities at the high school (as covered in the May 31 issue of the Sentinel), and a call from Coach Jeff Poston for maturity, respect, and unity amongst teams and parents.

Superintendent Josh Ingle noted that although still rising, building and labor costs are beginning to stabilize. Cost estimates for education buildings of about 10,000 square feet range from $400 to $450 per square foot while larger projects are trending $300 to $350 per square foot.

He also reported that converting the hitting facility at DCHS to a weightlifting room is nearing completion. This project includes updates to the second floor of the gym and shifting locations of various team practices.

Ingle gave an enrollment update, reporting that as of August 21, Dade Elementary has 780 students up slightly from 777 at the end of last year; Davis Elementary has 267 up from 246; Dade Middle has 422 up from 409; and Dade County High is at 586 down from 597 at the end of last year.

John Smith (director of facilities and transportation) reported that the school system has condensed several bus routes “due to a nation-wide driver shortage.” He also proposed purchasing new LED lighted stop signs for buses (with a 50 percent reimbursement from the state) to address the “critical issue across the nation of people running through the stop signs.”

Later, Smith reported that a 2019 bus has broken down and requires a new part. The $15,000 expense was approved by the board, with the hopes that the manufacturer will reimburse the repair even though the warranty expired a week before the bus broke down.

The Alliance for Dade presented a plan which includes continuing to hold job and career fairs, sharing job opportunities on social media, having employers speak at certain high school classes, and possibly developing an entrepreneur “incubator” program.

George Williams (Alliance board member) said, “How do we develop a career path for students to end up right here in Dade County?…We want to develop relationships between students and local business leaders. We want to develop soft job skills. That’s what we keep hearing from our investors–they want students with more soft skills.”

Ingle announced that this year, the high school added a new state-approved Financial Algebra course, primarily for seniors.

Primary Healthcare then presented about school-based health clinics. Through a grant from Emory University, Primary runs two such clinics–one in Tunnel Hill and one in LaFayette. These satellite clinics function like regular clinics, serving the public as well as students. Costs are the same as at regular clinics.

Governor Brian Kemp allocated state funds to develop community health centers in rural areas, earmarking funds for health providers who are already part of the Emory grant. The goal is to make healthcare accessible for students whose parents might be unable to drive them to a clinic. Parents/guardians must sign consent forms for the child to be seen without parents/guardians present.

However, the issue remains of transporting students from the other three schools to whichever school has the clinic. Additionally, in order to serve the public as well, a new building must be built on school property to eliminate security concerns in the main school. It is also unclear what happens once the grant runs out.

Diana Allen with Primary said, “One of the questions is, can it be sustained after two years? We don’t know at this point. A lot of it is going to hinge on patient demand.”

Jayne Griffin (At-Large) asked about data proving the need and effectiveness of such clinics. Jennifer Hartline (Sand Mountain District) raised the question of transportation (especially since there is already a clinic in the city of Trenton) and asked about the number of current school-aged clients and how many more a school-based clinic would bring in.

Answers from Primary were somewhat inconclusive. They did not have the data on hand but said they could gather that information.

Jeremy Roerdink (director of federal programs and safety) reported that the schools received three grants: an Esser math grant of $3,177 for Dade Middle School; a Safer Georgia Schools Grant of $250,000 to assist in paying school resource officer salaries and professional learning for the next two years; and an Esser II grant of $10,756 for school custodian bonuses (of about $1,000 per custodian). The board voted to accept these funds.

During public input, Pamela Wheeler spoke on behalf of concerned softball players and parents regarding the changes to the hitting facility. The first concern is that males are in the weight room while females change next door. (This was also addressed later during public input.) To the deadbolt solution already in place, Wheeler said, “There’s only one door now to exit the girls’ locker room. If it is barricaded, there is no way for the girls to exit that building.”

The second concern is the distance and time spent walking between the locker room where equipment is housed and the second floor of the gym where the hitting lanes are now located. Wheeler said, “This increases the time it’s taking them to get to the hitting lanes to warm up.” To the school’s proposed solution of purchasing equipment to be housed near the gym, Wheeler said, “My child still has to go down and get her bat and batting gloves unless those will also be purchased.”

The third concern is that the hitting lanes in the upper gym have not yet been completed. Wheeler said, “As of August 23, there was a net hung and about 30 feet of the floor is exposed to concrete…it’s not even ready.” To the school’s proposed solution of a temporary lean-to by the field, Wheeler said, “It would still not accommodate for severe weather. The heat we’ve had the past 30 days has been brutal.”

She continued, “The outside hitting lanes, they tried to use those today and had to clear those of weights before they could even get in. After much discussion, we’re not here just to complain. We want to bring to you proposed solutions.” At this point, Wheeler’s five-minutes were up, but she sent her prepared document to the Sentinel.

The proposed temporary solution is to reinstate the football field house as the weight room, as it was years ago. The document reads, “We suggest the area in the football field house that currently has open tables/desks be cleared out and the football player lockers be returned to this area. It would be a tight fit and the current locker room houses additional couches and a TV area that would have to be eliminated, but it would be safer for all students.”

The proposed permanent solution is to build a multi-sport complex. The document reads, “We request immediate consideration for a building that is aesthetically similar to the bus barn, cheaper and within our means, and could be erected in stages to allow for immediate needs vs. wants over time. Clearing the nets and returning them to the softball field house will also free the upper level of the gym for wrestling practice to resume for this season.”

Coach Jeff Poston also spoke during public input, addressing comments that arose from the facility rearrangements and general attitudes of parents. He began, “I’m not here to attack anyone at all…I support and fight for every single program here in this county all the time. The issue I have is with the misinformation presented on Facebook that attacks the football team.”

Poston did not read the Facebook posts or comments, but he explained, “I don’t demand buses. I put in a bus request like every other coach…One of our buses that day did not in fact have air conditioning, and I rode that bus…The school system doesn’t pay for anything to do with a charter bus for football. We raise our own money. We have over 50 kids; we have more than double most programs, so we are able to raise money.”

Regarding the locker room adjacent to the weight room, Poston said, “Girls are never in that locker room during the day when a weight training class is going on. We’ve been in there for over two years. There’s never been an issue with that.”

He continued, “The comments about everything being able to fit back in the old weight room just proves that you were never in the old weight room when it was being used…It was so cramped that people got hurt in there and would fall on each other.”

He added, “Everybody’s inconvenienced right now while we go through the renovation. My kids are working out outside in the heat…Wrestling is inconvenienced too. We have to drive across town in school traffic. We can’t get started with practice until 4:00 p.m.”

Poston concluded, “We all want the same thing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of others…Personal attacks and emotionally charged rhetoric should be left off. I would also like to challenge the board that when misinformation gets put out on Facebook, that facts be presented…so that I don’t have to deal with a bunch of upset boys on a Friday who feel like they’re being accused of stealing things from the girls that they’re friends with and grew up with. The new hitting lanes will be twice as nice as what’s there when they’re finished…Calling for a boycott of any program or any game is absolutely ridiculous and selfish.”

The personnel report is as follows:

  • Hire: Jan Greene 49%, Jocie Queen, Christy Gilbert Davison, Michael Wilborn, Tracy Blevins 49%, Hannah Cagle, Natoshia Leight, Misty Stone, Kari Wells
  • Substitute Teacher: Andrew Olds
  • School Nutrition Hire/Resignation: Angie Dabbs – Fulltime Worker, Jill Brown – Resignation
  • School Nutrition Substitutes: Jill Brown, Kim Justus, India White, Jayda Walker – Student Worker
  • Other: Jordan Biddle – Aftercare, Delaney VanVeldhuizen – Aftercare, Cary Carter – Community Coach DMS

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