Published 10:50 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Polk County Board of Education held its regular meeting on Monday, August 12 in the Stearns Education Building in Columbus.

The board elected new chairman, Rick Covil. Covil was chosen to replace longtime chair Geoffrey M. Tennant, who passed away in July.

Current vice chair Sherry Page will continue in her current role. Covil and Page have combined for almost 50 years of service to the board.

“Mr. Covil has a great deal of board experience and brings a strong commitment to continuing the board’s collaborative culture and dedication to students,” said Superintendent Aaron Greene. “While all our members agree that you can never replace Geoffrey Tennant, I believe Mr. Covil and Ms. Page will do their best to carry on Mr. Tennant’s student-centered approach to leadership. I know they have the support of the entire board and our Polk Schools family, and we look forward to working with them to continue doing what’s right for students.”

In other action at Monday’s meeting:

* A review of preliminary 2018-2019 testing results and information about the state’s new Exceptional Children digital database tool “ECATS” was presented by Technology/Accountability Director Dave Scherping

* Curriculum Director Ronette Dill informed the board that the preschool program will continue its practice of starting the first week of school with half-days for the district’s youngest students. Dill also summarized educator participation in many of the district’s summer professional development offerings.

* Greene provided updates on summer facility maintenance and improvement work and briefly discussed the district’s administrator retreat held on August 5-6.

* The board approved two updated policies on second reading, one clarifying graduation requirements and the other providing minor changes to class ranking. A new policy regarding service animals was tabled for further review and possible changes.

* The board held preliminary discussion around possible changes to the district’s student attendance policy aimed at improving chronic absenteeism and agreed to continued consideration of the policy in the coming months

* The board approved an “out-of-district” tuition amount of $2,300 for students attending Polk County Schools but living outside the county

* The board gave conditional approval to a contract for completion of the second phase of HVAC improvements at Saluda Elementary and also approved an annual QZAB loan payment that comes directly from lottery capital funding

* The board approved an FFA officer student retreat, agreed to hold a policy committee meeting in early September and received a report on the latest rankings that place Polk County Schools as the second best overall district in the state.

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By Andy Rhinehart