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Fleming – City Schools “Never Been Better”

Anita Price and Mike Farris of JM Turner survey the new field at William Fleming.

School Administrator Rita Bishop introduced Gene Jones, the new William Fleming principal, at Monday’s joint meeting with City Council and the School Board.

“The only thing new about William Fleming is a new building and a new stadium,” remarked Jones. His lofty goals this year are to increase the graduation rate by 10 percent and increase the promotion rate of first time 9th graders.

No slacking on the first day of school – it will be “homework from day one,” says Jones. He’ll make full use of technology to position Fleming at the “critical thinking level,” in an effort to make it the best school in the state.

Jones, with his “comfortable shoes on and ready to roll,” took the school board and council members on a tour of the new stadium.

Mike Farris, president of J. M. Turner, was the tour guide. While on the field, turf council members tossed a miniature football (not political) back and forth with little success. The turf is a composite of sand and recycled rubber. It will withstand football, lacrosse, discus, pole vaulting, shot put and long jumping for up to 12 years.

Other School Business:

Revisiting the school funding formula will take place through joint services during the upcoming budget cycle as suggested by council member Bill Bestpitch.

Bestpitch also wanted to have in place a 20-year school facilities remodeling and maintenance plan. “A roof replacement that you’re not ready for is not the kind of thing that should sneak up on us,” said Bestpitch.

He found it “troubling that issues like that end up having such a tremendous impact on certain neighborhoods.” Bestpitch felt that parents had bought homes near schools they wanted their child to attend only to see them close. The family then moves out of the city.

Council member Ray Ferris said there was “no excuse to move out of the city away from this school system … The perception of city schools needs to change.”

Council member Court Rosen remarked that over the past two years investment per student had risen from $4200 to $4800. He praised the school system for successfully juggling the school closings while producing an optimum outcome.

Bishop confirmed that the school’s facilities have “never been in better condition then they are in this school year.” Five million dollars has been spent for roof maintenance in the last two years with an additional five million of planned capital maintenance stretching to 2015.

Council member Sherman Lea stressed the importance of student safety, saying that, “disruptive students [should be] moved out immediately.” Bishop produced a 2008 – 2010 drug dog search schedule. A total of 28 searches were conducted yielding “nothing found.” Forest Park Academy will be added to the schedule this year. “These kids know the searches are going to happen,” said Bishop.

Bishop reassured Lea that the schools’ transportation system was prepared for smooth operation this year. The outsourcing of the buses to Krapf Bus Company has yielded a saving of $250,000 and 30 new buses.

By Valerie Garner
[email protected]

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