The McDuffie County Board of Education was informed Oct. 22 that the school district wants to build a new elementary school building to replace Thomson Elementary School’s current one. TES was built in 1954 and opened to students in 1955. A portion of the aging building can no longer be upgraded to comply with today’s building code standards, according to Administrative Services Director Dr. Neal Tam.

This proposed project would be funded by ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) dollars.

The school board approved posting an RFP (Request of Proposals) for pre-construction services for the recommended school build.

This initial step will help the school system determine a budget for the new school’s construction, Tam said. He told school board members that one proposed site for the new school building is the land where Maxwell Elementary School currently sits. Tam said there would be enough space there for a new school. He estimated construction could begin in 2023.

The school board also approved replacing two maintenance vehicles with new ones from Gerald Jones Ford at a total cost of $60,360.06. The system bought a 2020 F-150 and a 2019 F-250 with service body. The new trucks come with a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty and both are in stock and ready for delivery. Tam told school board members during a planning session Oct. 20 that it had been difficult to locate quality used vehicles due to the Coronavirus pandemic. “Mr. Blount was able to locate a used truck with 66,000 (miles) and no warranty for around $24,000.  We have not been able to locate a used service truck for the transportation department,” Tam said.  

The price on used vehicles had gone up, he said, and were in limited stock.

School administrators informed the board last week that the district would partner with Golden Harvest Food Bank to distribute 25,000-30,000 pounds of food to the community on Friday, Nov. 13. The food distribution will take place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (or until the food has been distributed) at the rear of Thomson High School where the bus ramp is located.

In other school board business, board members approved a resolution to amend the district’s Strategic Waiver School System (SWSS) Contract with the Georgia State Board of Education. The waiver will allow the system additional flexibility in several areas, including graduation requirements, school councils, media programs and professional learning, according to School Superintendent Dr. Mychele Rhodes.

In addition, the board approved a school board training plan and reviewed the board’s code of ethics and conflict of interest policies.

Personnel changes

Rhodes recommended the board approve six hires and eight requests for resignation or retirement. She also asked the board to approve adding a permanent substitute position at each school for the 2020-21 school year due to the pandemic.

New hires include Thomson High School secretary Simone McAlarney, Thomson-McDuffie Middle School paraprofessional Antoni Angoy-Aiyetoro and custodians JaKalin Lane at TMMS, Daniel Montgomery at Dearing Elementary School, Juantavious Lowe at Norris Elementary School and Mamie Bouttry at TES.

MES teacher Victoria Sutton resigned, as did THS school secretary Gina Timmerman, TMMS paraprofessional Reva Bryce and TES School Resource Officer Roderick Bryce. Bus monitor Frankeria Lockett resigned and bus monitor Donna Douglas retired. NES custodian Linda Buskey and DES custodian Linda Foston resigned.

Filling the permanent substitute positions are Kara McGahee at DES, Joyce Ramsey at MES, Sharon Reese-Burns at TES, Elizabeth Ivey at TMMS, Harriett Marsh at THS, Jeannie Simmons at McDuffie Achievement Center and Loucklin Ellis at NES.

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