The first day of school is drawing closer, and preparations are under way in Columbia County schools.
Superintendent Charles Nagle was sworn in by Judge Pat Hardaway before a standing-room-only crowd at the Board of Education building Tuesday.
Nagle acknowledged his family members and friends in the audience and thanked his predecessor, Tommy Price.
"I can't tell you how much I've appreciated his friendship and his mentoring," Nagle said. "Please let him know, if I let anyone down, it's not his fault."
Then, with a laugh, he added, "If it's real soon, it is."
Board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco told Nagle that the board expects to work with him for years to come.
"We put a lot of trust in you and a lot of confidence in you," she said. "And I know we're not always going to agree, but that's how good laws and good policy are made."
The board decided by a 4-0 vote to keep pre-kindergarten in public schools. Board member Wayne Bridges, who initiated discussions last spring about eliminating the program in 2008-09, was absent.
Board member Mike Sleeper, who has advocated expanding the program, said that he had talked to more than two dozen elementary educators and that none of them favored elimination of the county's 320 public-school pre-K slots.
"If we let these go, there is no guarantee that there will be spaces available (in the private sector)," Sleeper said.
Private programs, which must be certified by the state, serve more than 600 county pupils.
Nagle said the school system could apply for additional pre-K slots for the 2008-09 year in March, but additional slots would be available only if another system released some of their slots.
He said the school system will continue to use a lottery to select children for the program, but it no longer will use registration cards in its drawings.
This method raised the ire of parents who claimed that some teachers gained an unfair advantage by folding their cards for the River Ridge Elementary School drawing this spring.
In other business:
- Nagle said construction of the new Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Grovetown is on schedule. The dedication ceremony will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 9.
- The board promoted Anthony Wright from assistant director to executive director of the Human Resources department. Brian Reeder, an Evans Middle School teacher, will return to his alma mater as a half-time assistant principal at Evans High School. Greenbrier High School teacher Charles Fulmer will become an assistant principal at the school.
- The school board also held a millage rollback hearing. Nagle said the school system will gain about $3 million in revenues from the 13.1 percent growth in the county's tax digest this year.
Reassessments allowed the school board to roll back its millage from 17.18 to 17.09.
State law requires government entities that collect property taxes to roll back their millage to match the added revenue from a property tax reassessment or, if they keep the additional revenue, to hold three public hearings.
The school system's final hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
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