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School board holds line on taxes

The Bryan County Board of Education has given final approval to a fiscal-year 2016 millage rate that will not raise county school taxes.

The school board also voted to revise its policy for determining high-school valedictorians and salutatorians to a weighted calculation that rewards students for taking challenging classes.

A 15.537 millage rate tentatively was set June 25 when the board adopted its $61.1 million budget for FY 2016. The school district was required to advertise the millage rate prior to giving it final approval July 23.

The budget increased by $5.6 million from last year, largely by adding 59½ positions to support rapid enrollment growth and the opening of McAllister Elementary School, according to Superintendent Paul Brooksher. The budget also includes an increase in the school system’s match for employees’ retirement funds, $1.5 million toward capital improvement projects and a one-time payment to all school system employees of 3 percent of their salary.

However, the Bryan County Board of Education kept the millage rate the same as last year at 15.537. This is the sixth consecutive year the school board has not raised taxes.

“I think we have a great budget,” school board Vice Chairman Joe Pecenka said. “I’m very pleased that we do not have to raise the millage rate at this point in time. Hopefully we can continue that for as long as possible.”

Enrollment in Bryan County Schools is projected to increase by about 4 percent this year to around 9,000 students, according to Brooksher.

The district enrolled 360 new students in South Bryan schools in just a five-day period ending Tuesday, he told the board.

Bryan County also will welcome 75 new teachers this year, Brooksher said. The newcomers concluded their two-day orientation Wednesday.

“We’re excited about what we have going forward with them,” Brooksher said.

Reward for tougher classes

The new system for determining valedictorians and salutatorians rewards students credit for taking rigorous classes.

“We wanted to make sure that it was equitable for the students, that you didn’t have a student choosing to go the easier route just so they could be valedictorian,” said Brandi Hendrix, the school system’s high-school curriculum coordinator.

Students will be ranked on a weighted grade-point average, with more points given for harder coursework such as Advanced Placement classes.

“So for a child who took the AP track, the more-advanced classes, they may have a ‘B’ or two scattered in there, and I may take other courses that are not as difficult and I may make an ‘A,’” Assistant Superintendent Brad Anderson said. “There has to be some sort of weighting component for taking a more-rigorous course.”

The old valedictorian/salutatorian policy had been in place since 1999, according to Brooksher. The new one removes outdated wording such as “college prep” and “technical prep,” classifications Anderson said no longer are used in Bryan County Schools.

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