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Dougherty BOE adopts policies on breast-feeding

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Board of Education had a full agenda at its Monday meeting, which included at least one item the public had been waiting several weeks for the board to decide.

After being tabled twice, the issue of breast-feeding was brought up again. After local health care experts came to the board's last meeting requesting that school policy allow for the breast-feeding of babies at the system's schools, the board opted instead to allow expression of breastmilk only.

As was the case the last two times, there were two policies presented Monday -- one for teachers and employees and a second one for students. The policies, which were revised slightly since the last meeting, allow for expression of breastmilk and also state that reasonable efforts will be made to provide private quarters and refrigeration facilities.

The policies also state that needed equipment, such as breast pumps, will not be provided by the school system and that one other person can be allowed in the room. The policies were approved unanimously.

Budget constraints continue to be a reality in Georgia's public school systems, as reflected by the state board granting an exemption from all statutory and regulatory class sizes for the 2011-12 academic year.

On Monday, the Dougherty School Board authorized an increase of the class size maximums by one to three students for the coming academic year in K-12 regular education, English language learners, gifted, early intervention, vocational, special education as well as the remedial and alternative education programs.

"The state has the right to allow us to have a larger class size, but not so large that it is not manageable," said Superintendent Joshua Murfree.

The waiver was approved unanimously.

The board also decided which of its members would be the delegate and alternate representing Dougherty County at the Georgia School Boards Association delegate assembly in Savannah on June 17. Milton Griffin was named the delegate, and Darrel Ealum was named the alternate.

The last item on the board's packed agenda was a discussion regarding diversity of teachers in the school system.

This is a discussion item that came after a survey was done throughout the system. Board member Carol Tharin presented the results, which indicated that more than 70 percent of Dougherty's public school teachers are graduates of Albany State University.

"I'm not inferring that there is anything wrong with a degree from Albany State. I want to emphasis that," Tharin said. "But, there is virtually no diversity in the school system.

"It's time to step out of the box and bring in teachers from different programs. I feel like this is an issue we need to talk about and we need to think about."

Most of the other board members agreed it was an issue worth looking at, including Ealum.

"I've expressed with the superintendent that we need to broaden our base," he said. "We need to bring people in with new concepts and new ideas."

Tharin also added that she is working on a new policy that addresses this issue.

The agenda packet for Monday's board meeting also revealed the fate of Rhonda Ryans, a physical education teacher who was suspended from Lamar Reese Elementary School last year. Hearings conducted earlier this year were settled with the decision to re-locate her, but officials could not initially say where to.

It has now been determined that she will teach at Albany Early College.