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Early learning center MOU approved

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Rome City Schools

Rome Board of Education members approved a new memorandum of understanding with its two partners in the South Rome Early Learning Center on Tuesday, after months of negotiations.

The approval by the board follows a move at last month’s meeting to give their nod of approval to the eighth version of the MOU with Berry College and South Rome Redevelopment Corp. for the center at Anna K. Davie Elementary.

One of the two changes to the MOU from last meeting were any of the three partners can opt out of it at the end of a fiscal year, Superintendent Lou Byars told board members during caucus. Also, the SRRC is the only partner responsible for making any decision regarding dropping the number of classrooms or closing the center if there is a lack of funding — they are tasked with fundraising to cover operating costs.

In the MOU, Rome City Schools will provide around $15,000 to the center to pay for supplies and professional learning. This funding will come from a $1.26 million literacy grant the system received. The school system is not responsible for any financial contribution outside of this, Byars said, other than providing the facility.

With the SRRC being the decision maker on what will happen to the center if funding dries up, Byars said it ensures the school system will not be turned to for providing funding, as had occurred earlier this year.

At the July board meeting, Byars said the school system’s perspective on the MOU was for it not to have to bear a financial burden to keep the center in operation if fundraising did not cover the cost of running the center in the future. When talks for a new MOU began in March, the system had been asked to provide over $100,000 to pay the salaries of the two lead teachers and two assistant teachers at the center, due to several major grants ending and a fundraising deficit.

The center has two full classrooms right now, with 18 students each. The first time classes have been full during the first week of school since the center started four years ago. It has received a grant to pay for a year of tuition for 10 students, and is now a participating school in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, which allows individuals and corporations to donate to the center, providing scholarships, and receive tax credits.

Also on Tuesday, the board was supposed to consider approving a one-year $57,600 contract with V3 Publications. However, as Board Chairwoman Faith Collins said during caucus, “We do not have a contract,” but a set of bullet points formed as a proposal.

Board members directed Byars to formalize what V3 will be providing into a contract form, and then bring it to them at next month’s meeting for their approval. The proposed contract was removed as an agenda item.

Board members asked for the contract to specifically include a date each year when the contract could be terminated; who in the school system will be tasked with dictating responsibilities; how their performance will be measured; and ensure the information reaches a range of outlets.

This is the second time board members have pushed back deciding on the contract with the local company, which has been taking photos and writing news releases for the school system since January. The system has paid V3 on an assignment basis, Byars said, costing an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 a month.

Last month, board members had asked Byars to provide answers to what V3 provides that the school system does not already do.

On Tuesday during caucus, Byars said it provides an image for the school system, which it has lacked outside of having a championship football team, and can cover more than in-house staff.

“I’m not even sure we had an image,” he said.

Byars added that V3 helps brand the school and make an impression on the community through coverage of school activities as well as recognizing students and teachers. Also, it can extend information to parents, community members and news organizations, he continued.

Board member Elaina Beeman asked why the school system needs so much marketing. Byars explained that before V3 the coverage of the school system seen by the public was mostly negative. Using them now helps to share a positive connection with the community, he said.