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Dr. Denning Announces Retirement/Projects Headline City Schools
by Jamie Ramirez

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Cleveland City Board of Education held their regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 12, 2010. First was the reading of the agenda. After a vote on the movement of the regular agenda, the Director Updates were given by Dr. Rick Denning. Updates were given for the construction work being done at Stuart Elementary; lighting work and tile replacement will be finished by Friday July 16th.

Even with a savings of $56,000 Stuart Elementary was able to get state of the art lighting and restroom fixtures with energy and water saving sinks and toilets. Much of the interior work is scheduled to be finished by Friday with other parts of the project being finished at a later date.

Dr. Denning stated that there is a problem with the HVAC units in the auditorium. The current 15 ton units have died and need to be replaced. So far a quote has been stated of $95,000 and they are working to get more bids on the project to replace those units.

A report on the Administrative Office Building Property was also given by Dr. Denning, however, he proposed a site meeting for the Board and members of the press

Dr. Denning proposed a recommendation for a redesigning of the Cleveland High School Eastside parking lot. He says there is a big problem with run-off because of the gravel in the parking area and there is not enough green on the site. A couple of trees were lost in a previous storm and there are other trees that he would like to save near the parking area. He would like to connect the walkway area, curb it and will eventually have about 150 parking spaces when it's complete, including angled spaces and handicapped parking. The recommendation was approved unanimously.

Dr. Denning emailed the board a few weeks ago about The Small Learning Communities Grant. Mr. McDaniel from Bradley County Schools approached Dr. Denning about this grant. He and Autumn O'Bryan, Principal of Cleveland High School, have been working together on it. This is a grant for about $1,750,000 for 3 high schools, spread over a five year period. "Fortunately, Autumn managed this same type of grant before moving here,"
Dr. Denning said.

"It's a Federal Grant, it's about 8 years old and they were looking for a third school to partner with Walker Valley and Bradley Central to raise together a grant for Smaller Learning Community," stated O'Bryan during the board meeting. "The two priorities for this grant are common planning; which we have some structure already built and put into place, and post secondary planning. This is to have structure built in and have plans for additional initiative involved in that area."

This will help build a bridge between the three schools. The focus is on personal and professional development. A project director will be in charge of the primary operations of the grant and each school will have a site director. This type of grant focuses on personnel and professional development and will help with school needs when it comes to the professional development of the teachers. They will be introduced to new ways of thinking and teaching. It's training for faculty and sustainable work with a 95% success rate.

Dr. Rick Denning was named as Southeast Regional Superintendent of the Year by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents; with many achievements under his belt, this is one more to add. However, this great news doesn't come without some sadness. Dr. Denning announced his plan to retire in front of the Board during the meeting. He has given his notice one year before leaving so the board will have an adequate amount of time to find a new superintendent. They are doing a nationwide search for the new Superintendent of Schools and are really trying to do their homework. They want talk to the Tennessee School Board of Education about this and try to work out this transition. He has served the Cleveland City School Board for 15 years and is only the 9th school superintendent in the past 125 years.

Dr. Denning's letter was read by Mrs. Peggy Pesterfield, Chair of the Cleveland City Board of Education, followed by a standing ovation.

Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation meeting was a large meeting with Bradley County, and the board members were very impressed with the work of the foundation. "A lot of it is due to the dedication and the hard work and the integrity of the community that worked on the Foundation," said board chair Peggy Pesterfield. "The national certification is really taking hold." They had about 25 teachers working on the first level and others that are going on to the second level. Unfortunately, the City Schools did not apply for as many grants as they could have and were not awarded as much money as the county schools.

The next item on the agenda was a discussion and change of board policies concerning food being brought into the cafeteria during school hours and personal communication devices. On the policy concerning food being brought into the cafeteria, a change has been made. It now states, "Foods from outside sources, such as local restaurants may not be brought to students in the dining hall. These types of food must be included in a lunch packed from home." The board expressed an issue with this change of wording. The problem is that teachers like to, and have in the past, brought students foods from local restaurants. These are treats and rewards for students with excellent conduct in academics and other achievements.

The next policy issue was the use of personal communication devices in school. A change in policy stated that "personal communication devices shall not be visible, audible, or used in school buildings during regular school hours [including 30 minutes before the opening of school and 30 minutes after the closing of the school day] or during after-school detention." A change in wording was suggested by Bill Brown, stating that this wording was not good enough and somewhat sexist because girls can just put their phones in their purses, boys don't have that option. There have been numerous problems with cell phones being used by students in the past and even potential problems of cheating, texting and using it inappropriately on school grounds. "Right now, what we're saying is outta sight, outta mind, but that doesn't mean outta use."

A suggestion was also made to look at the cell phone policies of other schools. "Cell phones are going to be used in school and I'm not sure what the significance of 'visible, audible, or used' is appropriate if they're going to be on," Brown stated. A suggestion was also given to fine students using their phones inappropriately at which Brown stated that "if we're going to be fining somebody twenty bucks it had better be a policy and you'd better have a lawyer." Eventually a decision was made to omit the "visual" part of the policy and keep the rest of the current changes. They don't want to disallow cell phones from being on school property because students need them to call parents. They hope that eventually they will be able to find a balance when it comes to this issue.

The Energy Efficient Schools Initiative Grant needed to be voted on by the board to accept it and a unanimous decision was made to accept this grant of $104,068.

The company putting in the lighting at Stuart Elementary asked the board's approval to go into a lease agreement with them, which is the loan the board is going to get through this company to make up the difference of what the board doesn't have. This agreement includes a non-appropriations clause meaning the school can not commit for more than a year for funding. This needed to be approved by the City of Cleveland also. It is for $351,228 at 4.2% over 9 years with no penalty for early payoff.

The Tennessee School Boards Association's Fall District Meeting will be held at Cleveland Middle School on September 7, 2010 at 6:45 p.m. It will be held in the theatre to accommodate for the dinner and the following awards ceremony. Peggy Pesterfield suggested finding things that are indigenous to Cleveland to donate and maybe make some goodie bags for the event.

The next City Board of Education meeting will be August 9th at 5:30 p.m. in the Administrative Building located on the E.L. Ross Campus.