County schools ready for summer break

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Remember the joy of the final day of school; the exhiliration of walking out of the double doors and heading home to enjoy the hot summer sun? For kids, those sweet months seem like they will last forever, until the day that all those pesky grown ups start asking, "Are you ready for school to start back?"
   Today begins the first day of summer break for Carter County students, and while the underage children will be able to look forward to 76 days of summertime fun, the adults of the Carter County School Board will still be hard at work.
   Board members started off the May school board meeting by presenting achievement awards to area students. The school board office overflowed with students receiving recognition for high scores on the 2004 writing test, newspaper writing contests, and technology achievements at the high school level for family consumer science.
   Members were also briefed on the school system's approximately $32 million budget that will be voted on by the Carter County Budget Committee in the near future. County Finance Director Jason Cody said the budget committee's meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. will begin the voting process of the county's budget.
   If the proposed budget is approved, the school system will be left with a meager $1.1 million fund balance, dangerously close to an emergency level for funding.
   Board members are worried about an increase in the student population in county schools, especially at Hampton Elementary and Valley Forge Elementary.
   In other business, board members approved spending $1,885.50 to purchase 450 nursery rhyme books titled "The Lucy Cousins Book of Nursery Rhymes." These books will be given to parents of newborns at Sycamore Shoals Hospital with a letter from the Carter County School Board adhered to the inside of the book stressing the importance of reading to children.
   Peggy Campbell, K-4 Supervisor, initiated the program and quoted Vera Popp in the letter that will be attached with each book. Popp said, "All babies are born equal. Not one can ... speak, count, read, or write at birth ... But by the time they go to kindergarten they are not equal."
   The letter will also say, "One of the prime predictors of a child's school success or failure is their vocabulary. Yes, the child goes to school to learn new words, but the words he or she already knows will determine how much of what the teacher says will be understood."
   The board also discussed the early start times at schools and the picking up of students on buses. Member Steve Chambers told of a little girl who was being picked up on the bus shortly after 6 a.m.
   "I would like for the board to discuss the pick up times for kids and school times at the next meeting. Speaking for the parents, I don't see any good in it," Chambers said.
   Director of Schools Dallas Williams said he would come up with two or three options for the board to discuss at the next meeting.