School maintenance changes bring praise, results

Maintenance in the county’s schools has become a big issue as the county grapples with what to do with its middle schools. The man now in charge of that maintenance believes better days are ahead.

Jess Shull only recently took over as Operations Director for Pulaski County Schools, but changes he’s made in handling school maintenance chores are bringing results and praise.

Shull told the school board Tuesday that a new maintenance program had been rolled out this school year that dedicates one maintenance man to individual schools.

“It’s going well,” said Shull.  He said the goal is to have a faster response to work orders.

Shull said since maintenance workers were assigned to specific schools, the number of work orders has fallen from “about 310 to the mid-200s.”

Shull said the goal for a school system the size of Pulaski County is in the 125 range.  “A school like Pulaski County High School can get 15 to 20 work orders a day,” Shull said.

He noted the current backlog in work orders is due to extensive renovation work this past summer at Critzer Elementary.

“I think it will work well,” Shull told the school board.  He said people in the schools will get used to seeing their maintenance man, and he will become an expert on the school.

Shull added that besides the maintenance employees at each school, he has three “floaters” who are dispersed as needed. They are trained in three major trades – plumbing, HVAC and electricity.

School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said, as it was explained to him, maintenance in the past was handled by crews.

“They would hold work orders until they got enough to send crews out to address as many issues at one time as they could. That’s why there was so much lag time in getting some of the more simple work orders fixed,” Siers said. He added feedback from faculty, staff and principals “has been overwhelmingly in favor of what we’re doing now and the response time.”


OSHA Citation Issued

Shull told the school board that no citations were issued by OSHA following the July 25 inspections at both Pulaski and Dublin middle schools.

However, on Aug. 28 he received a call from OSHA stating they had changed their mind and a citation had been issued at Pulaski Middle School over a problem with asbestos insulation in a “really, really out of the way place in a crawl space.”

Shull said the issue with the asbestos had already been dealt with before the citation was received.


Budget Carryover Tops Half-Million Dollars

In his financial report, Assistant Superintendent Chris Stafford reported that the budget carryover from last school year will come in at $512,413.

Those funds will be added to the school system’s capital improvement fund.


Additional Kindergarten Teacher Hired

Sharon Hicks has been hired as a new kindergarten teacher at Pulaski Elementary School.

Siers told the school board the hiring of an additional kindergarten teacher was necessary when the school went over the state-allowed student-teacher ratio.

“It’s a problem, but a good problem to have when you’ve got so many kids that you have to bring in additional people,” Siers said.


Town Hall Meetings

Siers reported that the Pulaski County Citizens for Education will be holding a series of town hall meetings to discuss the middle school bond referendum.

He said the citizens group has requested at least one school board member attend each meeting.

Meetings are scheduled for:

Oct. 5 at Robinson Tract Community Center

Oct. 9 at Hiwassee Fire Department

Oct. 17 at Riverlawn Elementary School

Oct. 19 at Draper Fire Department

Oct. 24 at Dublin Lions Club

A sixth meeting is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22 in the Little Creek area.  The group is working to confirm the date and a location.

All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.


Middle School Open Houses

Siers reminded board members of the two open houses planned next week at Dublin and Pulaski middle schools.

Dublin Middle School’s open house will be Tuesday, Sept. 19, while Pulaski Middle School’s open house will be Thursday, Sept. 21.

Tours of the schools will be conducted from 4 to 6 p.m. with an information, question and answer session set for 6 p.m.

Siers said as an added feature, a simulation room is being set up to allow those attending the open houses to experience a classroom with an 85-degree temperature.

Siers said the room would let people see “what we have to contend with and the type of environment in which we are trying to educate our kids.”