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BOE discusses finances, behavior policies

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Jones County Board of Education members spent their November work session looking at policies and procedures of the handling of financial accounts and student behavior.

The Nov. 5 meeting was called to order by Board Chairman Ginger Bailey, and the first presentation was by state auditors Kim McCall and Michele Moulton.

McCall said the audit was clean but not without findings. She said the school system had a manual with the correct procedures, but they were not followed in the handling of all small accounts at the schools.

Moulton said that was not uncommon in small school systems.

“Sometimes it is not cost effective to have enough personnel to follow all the procedures,” she said.

Moulton said the rest of the findings pertained to federal programs.

“You are a step above many school systems that don’t have policies. For you it is more a matter of training,” she said.

School System Chief Financial Officer Tonya Merritt was the next presenter. She went over Jones County’s Local School Accounting Manual that spells out in detail the purpose of the manual and the responsibilities of school principals, bookkeepers, activity sponsors and other school personnel.

Merritt went over the segregation of duties, control of cash and the proper handling of petty cash funds. She said the manual was developed in 2008, and it was reviewed in detail in a meeting with School Superintendent Chuck Gibson, school bookkeepers and principals.

The CFO said state guidelines were also reviewed and distributed. She said meetings were held before the COVID shutdown to get input about the Local School Accounting Manual and to work on any changes.

She said she met with bookkeepers the previous week, and the manual would continue to be updated.

Merritt pointed out that proper procedures include an audit trail for everything but then added that online programs such as My School Bucks for school lunches and GoFan for admission tickets to school functions is simplifying the process.

Dr. Trevis Killen spoke to the board about the Student Code of Conduct. He said the code established the expected behavior of students and spells out prohibited behavior at school and school events.

“Essentially, students must abide by school rules and respect authority,” he said.

Killen added that Georgia law requires that each Board of Education adopt a code of conduct, which is included in the student handbook.

The director said federal law requires that schools be a drug free zone and no weapons are allowed on school property. He explained that principals have authority at the schools and went over the three levels of discipline.

He noted that level three violations may require the involvement of outside agencies and said the Student Code of Conduct is reviewed annually.

Bailey commented that without discipline, no learning is going on.

Killen said that a big part of his job is to connect students and their parents to resources that can help. Gibson added that the student is probably having the same problems at home.

In his superintendent’s discussion, Gibson gave kudos to Jones County Girls Softball Team and Coach Tripp Burt for their victory as State Champions. He said the team’s former coach Blake Lyons traveled from Nashville to see the game and root on the girls and their new coach.

“That is the embodiment of this program and those involved,” he said.

Clinton Burston reported FTE numbers. The total enrollment for the school system as of October was 4,878. He said there had been no issue with the student count for the Virtual Academy.

“It is treated the same,” he said.

Mary Francis Stewart reported that teachers have been helping quarantined students to not let them get behind.

“They have really stepped up to the plate,” she said.

Stewart went on to comment about recent challenges.

“We didn’t realize when we hired technology coaches how big that would be,” she said.

The meeting was adjourned to go into closed session.

The next board meeting is scheduled Nov.10.