Each month, White County School Board hears reports from two department supervisors so they can be updated on how each department is running and what needs they might have. This month, they heard reports from three such departments, as two of them are managed by the same supervisor.
Randy Alley, who oversees both the school system’s maintenance and transportation departments, updated the board on the status of both departments.
“Our people do a good job,” Alley said. “I can call them any time, and they are on their way. White County is lucky to have those men working for us.”
Alley said the maintenance department maintains 15 buildings, using just five full time employees.
“For the last two years, we have operated well under budget to help offset the cost of the new Findlay school building,” he said.
Alley went on to say the department has recently cross-employed two of the system’s bus drivers to work part time at the middle and high schools to help with lawn maintenance.
“If you have been around those schools lately, you should have noticed the changes that these two have made,” he said about Terry Homan and Tammy Hysell, the two employees who are working both transportation and maintenance.
Alley reported the White County Middle School roof needs to be the next major expense as it is in year 22 of what was supposed to be a 20-year lifespan and will need to be replaced soon. He said after the roof repair at the middle school, the renovation of the BonDeCroft Elementary School should be the next focus.
Alley switched focus and talked about the school system’s transportation department saying that 2020 has been a tough year. He reported they have lost six drivers from last school year to the beginning of the current year and have now lost an additional three drivers so far in the 2020-2021 school year. Alley said the department has not hired a driver since 2019 and, in fact, has only one substitute driver.
“We have had to cut two routes out because of lack of personnel, and our bus mechanics have driven a lot of the school days this year to help fill in,” he said and added they still run 36 routes daily, including five special education routes. “As a school system, we are going to have to make some changes in order to attract bus drivers.”
Alley said while “Bus Driver Wanted” signs are common across most counties, this is the first time in five years that White County has been in the same position.
“Transportation has changed more than any area in education across the state,” he said and added that the federal government has begun imposing additional regulations and qualifications on top of the ones issued by the state. “It is so much harder to hire a driver now than before. The qualification standard is very high. Driver training regulations are changing.”
Alley did add that White County’s school system transportation is one of the best in the state.
“Our Tennessee Highway Patrol inspections were completed this year in September, and we again received a 100 percent inspection completion,” he said, adding it was the system’s third 100 percent inspection. “Our transportation department sets the bar in the mid-state, and you can rest assured that all White County students will be riding the safest equipment possible.”
“We are only as good as your people,” Alley concluded. “I have good people who work for me; they are the reason that my departments are excelling. They are the reason that I can do my job.”
The second department to report to the school board was the Family Resource Center. While Beverly Dronebarger, who is the head of the department, was unable to attend, Jayson McDonald, the board’s chairman, read a detailed report she had provided for the meeting.
One of the key points was that the Family Resource Center, which has moved to the back of the new board of education building, has opened an on-site clothing closet.
“The clothing closet is organized and served by two retired women,” McDonald read. “It is open on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and by appointment.”
The Family Resource Center has also established a space for families who do not have access to laundry facilities and cannot pay for the laundromat to come on-site and wash clothes.
“This is used for emergency situations where students do not have clean clothes in order to come to school,” McDonald read. “A few families have used this in temporary situations until they could resolve the issue, whether it is due to homelessness or broken appliances.”
The Family Resource Center also reported they had been awarded a grant in the amount of $9,000 from Caney Fork Electric, TVA, and CoBank, and have used the money to help families with emergency food needs as well as to provide food to families during school breaks.
“This program has provided food to over 300 families as of this report,” McDonald read.
The report also stated that BEST groups are currently serving students in four of the county’s six elementary schools with 47 students participating in the small-group grief support offered through them.
“It has been different this year with students being quarantined at times, but in some instances students have participated remotely when appropriate,” the report stated and added there are plans for the other two White County elementary schools to receive the program during the second semester of the current school year.
The Family Resource Center also reported assisting students and families with clothing, school supplies, and hygiene items needed to support school attendance. They also have assisted homeless students and families with needs and provided Christmas assistance to 160 students.