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Schools leader says district committed to Macon Promise Neighborhood | News

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Schools leader says district committed to Macon Promise Neighborhood

There was lots of confusion at Thursday nights Bibb County School Board meeting when community members came to show support for the Macon Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Some thought the school was pulling out of it completely.

The promise initiative is aimed at improving the Tindall heights and Unionville neighborhoods.

Earlier this month the board voted to end an agreement that pays up to $325,000 annually in operational costs for the initiative, which is housed at the Historic Ballard Hudson building.

However, some in the communities it serves are under the impression the board is abandoning it completely and ending the lease.

Interim Superintendent Steve Smith said that's not true. "We are fully committed to the Macon Promise Neighborhood. I think it's a wonderful concept that can help a lot of people that need our help. We're committed to the promise center and our lease to the promise center. We're gonna commit to that. We have plans to, even before the end of the year, to have functional vocational programs operating in that facility. By the beginning of the school next year we're gonna have 5 or 6 new vocational programs that we don't currently have at the Hutchings College and Career Charter Academy that will start at the Promise Center," said Smith.

Smith said he has an idea about where the misinformation about the future of the Promise Center came from but added he wouldn't comment on that right now.

Also at the meeting, board member Wanda West brought up the possibility of purchasing the building down the line.

Former board member Bob Nickels also spoke about the Macon Promise Neighborhood Initiative and praised the board for ending the memorandum of understanding. He asked that there be a forensic audit into funds associated with the center.

"To ensure that those funds have been spent in a proper manner. If that is the case everybody on the school board should be more than happy to vote for that to happen. It will clear up all questions," said Nickels.

Budget Approved

Also at the meeting, the board approved the fiscal 2015 budget. The total expenditures will be $289.9 million, which includes having no furlough days for teachers.

It also lays out the schools contribution to the Academy for Classical Education, or A.C.E., charter school. A.C.E. board member Bob Easter, who wouldn't comment on camera, told the Bibb board he didn't think equal funds were appropriated for his students. Interim Superintendent Steve Smith said the charter falls under the Bibb County umbrella and those students get the same per pupil funds as the other schools.

"I can assure you that we're gonna give them the same treatment we give to the other students within our school system. We have discussed this with the department of education, with the head of the charter schools division, he's the one that helped us gauge the amount of money that we should give to them. We discussed it with him about six months ago. I discussed it with him as as recent as this afternoon. And he said to me he said I'm very comfortable with the amount of money that y'all are offering them," said Smith.

The superintendent said the budget is based on projections and if the cost per pupil increases all students in Bibb County would be allotted more money, meaning A.C.E. would too.

In a 6 to 1 vote, with board member Tom Hudson dissenting, Smith's contract was extended from July 1 to December 31, 2014


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