PICKENS, Ga. — The new agricultural facilities were an important topic at the Pickens County Board of Education meeting on Oct. 14. Concerns about staff shortages across the county were also brought up at the meeting.
Gilleland also updated the board on the agricultural facilities currently under construction. The board approved the guaranteed maximum pricing for the PHS agricultural facility at $6,668,139. Gilleland noted that the GMP marked over a million dollars in savings from the original estimates. He then spoke about the process of construction, which has been underway since the first meetings around one year ago. He noted that the FFA has been heavily involved in the process,“We let them tell us what they wanted, and we’re building what they wanted.”
Greg Long, President of Georgia FFA Alumni Association, spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. Long commended Superintendent Young and Mr. Gilleland for helping get the agricultural facility started, and recognizing its significance, “How gratifying it is to finally see somebody take a little bit of interest in the importance of what our Ag. program means in this community.”
Superintendent Young addressed the topic of staff shortages, “It’s been a very challenging year for staffing in a number of different areas.” During his superintendent report, Chief Operations Officer Stacy Gilleland first mentioned the issue of bus driver shortages, “We’re still struggling with driver shortage.” However, the county has approved two bus drivers this month, and is in the process of training four more drivers. Gilleland also brought up concerns about the school system’s food service staff: “We’re having to do a lot of subbing, and it’s been a real critical issue.”
The county, however, is working to address the current staffing issues. During the meeting, the board unanimously approved an amendment to the current bus driver schedule. The state of Georgia has a bus driver salary scale which caps increases to 19 years. This amendment, however, will extend the cap to 30 years. The board hopes the extension will help the county stand out in the job market and recruit more drivers.
Two board members spoke about the newly approved amendment. Mr. Gartell addressed the chair to acknowledge that the county will probably need to consider additional action in the future: “It seems to be a national shortage and we may have to move further as we go into this … but this is a good step that we’re able to take now, and hopefully the state will free up some funding for transportation.” Mr. Green also spoke, noting the importance of community input: “I appreciate a couple drivers that brought this to mine, and our, attention. It’s another prime example of ‘don’t be scared to speak up.’”
The Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding with Georgia Hope, who will provide more mental health and counseling services to the school system.