(T-G Photo by John I. Carney) [Order this photo]
Cooper will continue to serve until a new school board member is elected to his seat in August, and then in September the board will need to elect a new chairman. Five of the nine school board seats are up for election this year.
Cooper said that after 18 years on the board, 16 of them as chairman, it was time to step down. He said he was "moving on to family and other things" and that it was time to let someone else serve.
(T-G Photo by John I. Carney)
Cooper's term as chairman has spanned three superintendents and included a number of building projects and expansion of technology at the schools.
Earlier in the meeting, Shaw Daniels, chairman of the Maury County school board and a district director for the Tennessee School Boards Association, was on hand to present a TSBA award naming the Bedford County group a "Board of Distinction." Daniels said the designation is based on board performance in planning, policy, promotion and board development, and said the local school board's performance was unmatched.
"The Board of Education here in Bedford County is what this award is all about," said Daniels.
The board approved a request from School Superintendent Ray Butrum to increase the number of optional wellness and physical fitness classes available to high school students. The new elective focus area won't replace existing physical education classes but will give the high schools the flexibility to add additional classes, such as strength and conditioning; first aid and safety; nutrition; aerobics, dance and Pilates; and a county-wide Junior ROTC program.
Except for the ROTC program, no new teachers would be required; the program simply gives schools the flexibility to add the new classes using existing faculty. Each school would decide which classes to offer based on student interest and available faculty.
The ROTC program would be available to students from any of the three high schools, would probably meet in the evening hours, and would count for class credit. The military would pick up the cost of the ROTC program, including an instructor, but the approval process for getting that funding is somewhat long and involved, according to Butrum.
Property tax collections in January were well below the collections for January 2011, reported County Finance Director Robert Daniel, so much so that fiscal-year-to-date collections are now running behind those for fiscal 2010-2011. But Daniel said he's not concerned yet.
"This is going to bounce around until we get all the taxes collected," said Daniel, and is affected by whether taxpayers in a given year tend to pay their taxes earlier or later.
Sales tax, meanwhile, continues to show growth when compared to the same period last year. Sales tax collections have been up for every month but one in the fiscal year which started last July. Sales tax is used to pay school debt, Daniel noted.
Revenues are on track with budget, said Daniel. Expenditures are well below budget, although that's slightly misleading because of some large expenses which aren't made until the very end of the fiscal year.
Butrum said he wants to use some federal JOBS program money to allow teachers to be tested for highly-qualified status an additional subject area, which would increase school flexibility in using existing personnel.
The school system has received half of the growth funding it will receive from the state due to increased enrollment. Butrum said he wants to use the growth money to continue programs which were started and are now being funded with JOBS money.
The board heard presentations from Betsy Norris on a Teaching American History grant and from Missy Eakin on testing. The high school students who will represent Bedford County at the Student Conference on Policies in Education (SCOPE), a TSBA-sponsored mock school board exercise, were introduced. The meeting was held at Harris Middle School, and HMS eighth-grader Edwin Moore performed an a cappella song for the board, introduced by music teacher Jon Brock.