Where would the 1-cent tax money go?

CCBOE superintendent talks dream projects

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Artist’s concept of a new combination high school/technology center (Image courtesy CCBOE)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) on Oct. 10 passed a resolution asking the Cullman County Commission to set an election in March 2020 for a public vote on a proposed 1-cent sales tax to benefit the county and city school systems. On Oct. 22, the Cullman County Commission agreed to place the measure on the March 3, 2020 primary election ballot.

Read the CCBOE’s resolution here: www.cullmantribune.com/2019/10/10/ccboe-to-county-commission-put-1-cent-sales-tax-on-march-ballot.

In requesting the ballot measure, Barnette told the County Commission, “We are asking for a 1-cent sales tax to be placed on the ballot for the people of Cullman County to vote on. This money will be spent on the local school campuses, upgrading facilities and security. We have an outline of what we would like to do on each campus, and we’ve been sharing that in community meetings over the last couple of months. During those conversations, we feel like the people of Cullman will support this and really through those meetings have asked for us to come to you guys and ask for this to be put on the ballot.”

Commissioner Garry Marchman replied, “People are out in the communities and talking about it and one of the things they are saying is that, we don’t mind voting for a tax, but we want to know what’s going to happening to the money and where it’s going to go.”

Barnette sat down with The Tribune earlier this week and explained what he wants to see happen around the county system. His stated priority is security, followed by a plan for extensive upgrades to all campuses, and climaxing with what the superintendent called his “dream” for a completely new Cullman Area Technology Academy that will include a high school, to be located on one of the current high school campuses.

Campus security

Barnette said his first priority will be to improve security on every campus in the system.

  • Additional School Resource Deputies – Barnette told The Tribune that the hiring of three additional SRDs would be done as soon as sufficient funds became available, saying, “That’ll be the first thing we do.”
  • Raptor Visitor & Emergency Management System – A basic form is already in use countywide, but more funding will allow more features to be added to the modular system.
  • Substantially more security fencing – Barnette said that he would like to see all campuses fenced in, but not looking like prisons. His idea includes regular fencing around the sides and backs of campuses, and front enclosures that might resemble traditional wrought iron fencing.
  • More controlled access systems – Barnette said he would like to see “every door on every campus that opens up to the outside” secured with a mechanism that could be accessed by a keypad, card or fob, and that would allow immediate lockdown in the event of an emergency. 
  • Second secure entry systems – Two sets of controlled access doors at main entrances would allow visitors to enter the front door and go to the office to sign in, but still place a controlled access barrier between them and student areas of the building. Such systems are already being tested at Harmony School and West Point Elementary.

 

Facility upgrades

Barnette said every school campus will see improvements including new construction, and as the system prepares to put up new program-specific facilities like agriscience and consumer science buildings, the instructors who will actually be teaching in those buildings will be part of the planning.

Under Barnette’s proposed plan, facility improvements- beyond the security upgrades already mentioned- will include:

  • Cold Springs High School
    • expansion of paved parking
    • expansion of lunchroom
    • new agriscience/family and consumer sciences building
    • new gym
    • updated science labs
    • remodeling of basement gym into auditorium
  • Fairview schools
    • expanded paved parking
    • new agriscience and consumer sciences buildings at high school
    • extended goal of new classrooms added to elementary school
    • updated science labs at high school
  • Good Hope schools
    • new library and gym at middle school
    • expanded paved parking at high school
    • new high school wing on current elementary school site
    • new elementary school building next to Good Hope Primary 
  • Hanceville Elementary School
    • expanded parking in front
    • demolition of old building on back of property and construction of new playground in its place
    • expansion of main building with new classrooms
    • outdoor classroom behind main building
  • Harmony School
    • outdoor classroom and green house
  • Holly Pond schools
    • expanded paved parking on northwest campus
    • new agriscience, family and consumer sciences buildings at high school
    • additional classrooms on east end of elementary building
    • outdoor classroom at elementary school
    • enclosure of front of elementary school to stop classrooms from opening into parking lot
  • Parkside School
    • repave and stripe parking lot
    • replace all HVAC systems
  • Vinemont schools
    • new high school building
    • extended goal of new elementary school building
  • West Point
    • expanded lunchroom
    • new agriscience complex and consumer sciences building at high school
    • new second-floor classrooms at high school
    • new gym at intermediate school
    • new classrooms at elementary school

 

Said Barnette, “This is a reality: a lot of people don’t want us to spend money on all these campuses. They’d rather us consolidate schools. And it would be easy to do, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. I think if we shut down schools, it kills the community, and I’m not about that.

“And a lot of the people that are advocates for closing down and consolidating schools, they want me to do it, but they don’t want me to start with their school. Everybody wants to do it, but just not their school. And my goal, especially if we get this sales tax passed, is that we don’t consolidate any schools, and we get them where they need to be, and we bring in housing and we bring in growth where that all of our schools are continually growing and getting bigger and are a vital part of their community.”

The “dream” of a new facility for career technical education

The superintendent wants to see the current Cullman Area Technology Academy, still known to many as the “Career Center,” replaced by a whole new facility to be located on one of the system’s current high school campuses.

Barnette said, “I’m dreaming of a state of the art, modern, attractive career tech center that will incorporate a high school on the top floor and a career tech center on the bottom floor.”

The new facility would allow regular academics and technical training to take place under the same roof, though students would still have the option to take their regular classes at their home schools.

Barnette said city system students would be welcome, as they are now, and he hopes to draw in students from other districts, who would attend for a fee.

Said Barnette, “My goal, right now, is to be a full functional high school up there, so if a young person wanted to come to that high school, they can. And that way, if they want to go down and take just one course, a tech thing, and then go back upstairs and take all their academics, they can. If in ninth grade, they want to try one, maybe second semester try a different tech thing- a different class- they could do that.

“But at the same time, if somebody’s at Holly Pond High School and they want to come for two hours a day, they can come for just two hours a day.

“But, you know, one of the things we want to get away from is that (stigma) of a ‘trade school;’ we want it to be something attractive that kids will want to come to. And we want to be able to offer the different programs that are going to provide kids opportunities to get jobs that are available in north Alabama now, and for five years from now and for 10 years from now. By building this with additional space, we can offer more programs than we offer now, and different programs.”

A recent survey commissioned by the CCBOE indicated that more than 90% of local businesses and industries support the idea of a new career technical facility and would be willing to work with the system to offer training and apprenticeship opportunities, and a few might even offer financial support for a new center.

At the current pace of progress in industry, CCBOE’s existing CATA facility simply cannot keep up. Business and industries have identified several potential needs for new technical training courses, but according to Barnette, “Right now, we have no more space to add any new programs at CATA.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, Barnette remarked, “With this sales tax, it gives us the opportunity to do things the right way, to build the buildings we need to build, and not just get by.”

Copyright 2019 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Artist’s concepts of the inside and outside of the proposed new career technical center/high school (Images courtesy CCBOE)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com