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Orangeburg County's new school district is planning to buy property to house instructional and technology staff, Interim Superintendent Dr. Zona Jefferson said.

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Trustees discussed the property purchase and personnel matters in closed, executive session before the start of the second February meeting. The meeting was held in the cafeteria of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5’s Nix Learning Center.

During open session, the board approved a resolution declaring its intent to use debt service funds to purchase the property. No cost was discussed, and Chairwoman Peggy James-Tyler said that the district couldn’t name a possible location at this point.

According to Jefferson, funds for the purchase would come from debt service millage, with no millage increase for taxpayers.

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• In the superintendent’s report, Jefferson said, “We are making great strides to ensure we are ready for a smooth transition.”

Lawmakers approved legislation last year requiring the merger of the county’s three school districts into one by July 2019. The consolidation transition committee has been planning for the combination of school districts 3, 4 and 5 into a unified district.

The three districts end their work on June 30, with July 1 being the first official day of operation for the new, consolidated school district.

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As part of that transition, information technology staff members in each of the three districts have been working together toward migration and setup of services for the new consolidated district, according to Eric Ham, District 5’s head of information technology.

The special education directors of each of the three districts also reported on merging of their departments’ services.

According to Dr. Tawana Nash, District 5’s executive director of special education, the combined district will serve about 1,700 special education students – with District 3 having about 400 students, District 4 about 500 and District 5 about 800 at present.

All current staff members are needed and more may be required, based on projected enrollment and the needs of the students.

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• Trustees gave first reading once again to several policy drafts that were revised since the last meeting. The policies dealt with foundations and basic commitments, fiscal management, support services and facilities planning and development.

“We will have further discussion of each and every one of these,” said South Carolina School Boards Association General Counsel Dr. Tiffany Richardson.

Richardson has been assisting the board with drafting policies and other matters for the new consolidated district.

• Richardson said that per the board’s request, the duties of a parliamentarian – a post that will be filled later by a board member -- have been added to an organization policy draft. She also recommended that the district change the date for board officer elections.

Jefferson said that the elections should be held in November so that officers would be established by December before the beginning of the new year.

Another policy change discussed was adding language that would set per-diem mileage and expense reimbursement for trustees according to state rates.

• The board discussed whether the district should retain only an outside attorney or have in-house counsel as well. No decision was made.

• Trustees voted to ask District 5 to waive a policy that would require board stipends to be paid as direct bank deposits. One trustee would prefer to receive payment as a paper check, according to Jefferson.

Trustees were split in their voting, with James-Tyler casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of making the request.

• The board approved a standard professional contract format for faculty and staff members. The process would include on-site background checks, Jefferson said, and the district’s teacher recruiters would have all the tools for interviewing potential employees at job fairs.

• Jefferson said she would prefer to have a financial report presented at each of the board’s two monthly meetings, not just once monthly. Trustees approved the request.

• The board voted to approve school and work calendars for the 2019-2020 school year. Jefferson said that staff in all three current districts discussed and voted on the calendar drafts.

Teachers are to report for work days and staff development Aug. 12-16, and the first day for students to report to school will be Aug. 19.

• Trustees will meet in Santee on April 2-3 for a strategic planning session, including drafting a mission statement, statement of beliefs and discussion of goals.

• The board’s next meeting will be held Tuesday, March 12 at a location to be announced later.

Contact the writer: chuff@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5543.

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