The Madison County School Board has laid the groundwork for full-day kindergarten to begin in August. Now comes the really hard part, giving a name agreeable to everybody for the academy at the former Mayfield Elementary that will serve the four county elementary schools in Richmond.

Other academies will be located at Waco, Kingston and Shannon Johnson elementary schools.

At a Thursday board meeting at Madison Central High School, Superintendent Elmer Thomas proposed it be named Cassius M. Clay Kindergarten Academy. The school colors would be red, white and blue, and the mascot would either be the cavaliers or the crusaders. 

Thomas said Clay’s name was chosen because he figured prominently in Madison County history. In addition, proponents of the new name like the alliteration of the name and mascot – Cassius Clay Cavaliers or Crusaders – CCC.

Board member John Lackey was unconvinced, however, suggesting the public had not been given ample opportunity to provide input. In addition, Lackey disagreed with the selection of Cassius Clay, noting that Clay was not particularly known for education. Instead, Lackey suggested the school be named after another figure from the county’s history who was more associated with learning.

“We have missed the greatest of all Madison Countians, John G. Fee (founder of Berea College),” Lackey said.

Lackey further objected to the proposed mascot name, suggesting cavaliers was too closely associated with the University of Virginia, and crusaders invoked memories of people “who slaughtered Muslims,” Lackey said.

Lackey moved to table the measure until more public input could be gathered. His motion was adopted unanimously. The kindergarten academy is slated to open in the fall.

On another item, Lackey again voiced concerns after instructional supervisor Mendy Mills presented a $62,000 proposal to re-purchase Dreambox online math software, which she said has been an important instruction supplement at the 10 county elementary schools. The schools use Dreambox through the fifth grade, but the manufacturer markets it for students through eighth grade.

Citing his personal research, Lackey said the program is effective only from kindergarten through the third grade, and he suggested it may be more hype than good value.

Mills disagreed, saying the district has used the program for the past five years, providing 40,000 hours and 200,000 lessons of supplemental math instruction to students. The board passed the measure to renew the purchase agreement.

In other business, the school board:

• Approved continuation of district-wide insurance coverage facilitated by Roeding Roberts Insurance Group. Fiscal Year 2014-15 will reflect a 2-percent decrease in premiums, according to agent John Roberts.

• Discussed a purchase order for 10 new school buses, including five 72 passenger buses for $87,873 each, three 78 passenger buses for $105,044 each, and two 66 passenger buses for $94,043 each. Orders for the Thomas Built buses included accessories, such as air conditioning.

• Approved the $36,009 purchase of text books from Follett School Solutions for the new kindergarten academy

• Approved the $62,987 purchase of new weight-training equipment for Madison Central High School

• Voted to renew its contract with Measure of Annual Progress (MAP) software for primary grades, state MAP assessments, and MAP science assessments for $95,450

• Approved replacing the Madison Southern High School football stadium press box and hired Sherman Carter Barnhart as architect for the project

• Reviewed and approved schematic designs for renovation of the property at 301 Highland Park – the school district’s administration building. The facility has several new features, including a board room and new offices for Migrant ESL (English as Second Language) programs. Cost projections are pending.

• Heard that school councils had selected Che Haselwood as Shannon Johnson Elementary principal and Ken Clark as Kit Carson Elementary principal.

Superintendent’s evaluation reviewed

Board chair Mona Isaacs briefly reviewed the superintendent’s evaluation. She and other board members expressed appreciation for work so far, with Isaacs emphasizing the increased transparency in the way the district does business.

Thomas also was praised for his handling of new projects during a hectic first year, including the creation of the new kindergarten academy.  

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