Tunnel Hill Elementary file photo

Yandi Bibian, then a senior at Coahulla Creek High School who was enrolled in the nursing program at the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy, showed Selena Davis how to hold a baby during a Tunnel Hill Elementary Career Day in this file photo. Tunnel Hill Elementary "beat the odds," according to a state-level assessment of schools released last month.

The Whitfield County Board of Education elected a new chairman and vice chairman Monday night, with Bill Worley ascending to chairman and Joseph Farmer named vice chairman during the board's first meeting of 2020.

Worley, who has been on the school board since 2010, had most recently been vice chairman, and he follows Tony Stanley as chairman. Farmer, a graduate of Northwest Whitfield High School and the University of Georgia, was elected to the school board in 2018.

Also Monday, the board set meeting dates for this year. Meetings will generally be on the first Monday of each month, with a work session at 5:30 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, Feb. 3, at the central office.

In other developments, Audrey Williams, Whitfield County Schools' assistant superintendent for accountability and assessment, noted the vast preponderance of the system's schools are either "beating the odds" or are within expected ranges, with only a few "below expected range," according to a state-level assessment. The Governor's Office of Student Achievement released the 2019 Beating the Odds analysis on Dec. 19.

"Beating the Odds is a statistical analysis that compares a school’s actual performance on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) with the performance of schools with similar characteristics across the state," according to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement. "The following school characteristics are included in the calculation: percentage of economically disadvantaged students; percentage of English language learners; percentage of students with disabilities; percentage of students in each race/ethnicity; percentage of female students; student mobility; school size; whether a school is defined as nontraditional (according to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement); and school type (elementary, middle, high and schools that span grade clusters)."

The Beating the Odds metric provides context for factors outside direct control of school officials, Williams said.

"Our schools are doing the best they can, but there are factors we can't control," she said.

The elementary schools of Cohutta, Dug Gap, Eastside, Pleasant Grove, Tunnel Hill, Varnell and Westside — as well as New Hope Middle School — all "beat the odds," while Antioch, Cedar Ridge and Valley Point elementary schools were below the expected range, she said.

Beaverdale Elementary, Dawnville Elementary, New Hope Elementary, Eastbrook Middle, North Whitfield Middle, Valley Point Middle, Westside Middle, Coahulla Creek High, Northwest Whitfield High, Southeast Whitfield High and Phoenix High schools all were within the expected range.

The board members also heard an update from Jim Fugate, the school system's procurement officer.

"Procurement procedures are designed to provide (the) Whitfield County school system with the highest quality products at the lowest reasonable cost to the taxpayer," according to Whitfield County Schools. "These procedures are designed to promote full and open competition by all qualified vendors, provide safeguards for maintaining a procurement system of quality and integrity, and promote public confidence in the integrity and transparency of the procedures followed to procure the goods and services."

The procurement department is currently managing roughly 30 multi-year contracts, and more than 40 software agreements have been completed in the past year, Fugate said. Recently, Fugate's department has saved the school system money by conserving energy, including spotting — and rectifying — an ongoing water leak at Westside Middle School.

Fugate has also led the charge to place critical information in the cloud so that if, for example, some natural disaster destroyed the school system's physical records, that information wouldn't be lost, he said. He's also closely scrutinized various contracts, and "we're OK on the contracts."

Fugate "has done a really excellent job (and) taken it to the next level," said Judy Gilreath, superintendent. "It really means a lot of money saved."

Gilreath provided a construction update on Valley Point Middle School, slated to begin hosting students this fall, and North Whitfield Middle School, scheduled to open for students in the fall of 2021.

The former "is moving along very nicely (and) really looks good," she said. The latter, which boasts a similar layout to Valley Point — only larger — "is coming along, too."

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