Atlanta school board honors band, discusses safety

The Atlanta School Board held their first meeting of the 2018-2019 school year last Tuesday to discuss several new and positive changes taking place around the Rabbit campuses.
The Atlanta Middle School Symphonic Band was the focus of attention to kick off the meeting, with an update from band director, Kristen Thompson.
“Last year’s symphonic group, the 2017-2018 group, submitted our three U.I.L. pieces,” said Thompson. “They went through three levels of judging, a region level, an area level and then a state level with five judges being on each panel. Out of all three of those levels, they finished first place all the way up through the state level, and that’s how we came to win Honor Band.” 
Thompson thanked parents and board members, and said they couldn’t have done it without all their support.
Thompson announced the band will travel to the largest convention in the world Feb. 13-16, which not only consists of bands, but choirs, elementary music, orchestras and anything music related.
“There are usually 30,000 people in attendance on average every year, and these guys will perform for those people. It’s going to be big,” added Thompson.
Most major universities will have representatives at the convention for concerts, clinics, etc. This is the highest honor a middle school can receive, and they will compete with around 450 different middle schools in the state of Texas, and Atlanta Middle School was chosen.
A presentation of the 2018-2019 budget and tax rate was given by Marilyn Cobb and was reviewed and discussed with members of the board. She said the tax rate was exactly the same as the previous school year, with only a slight change to the budget.
 Board member and Superintendent, Sidney Harrist, went over the SHAC Report, School Health Advisory Council, which is a group of individuals representing segments of the community, appointed by the school district to serve at the district level, to provide advice to the district on coordinated school health programming and its impact on student health and learning.
One recommendation Harrist said that was discussed prior to this meeting was to provide water drinking stations for students, to encourage them to drink more water. He provided a sample station to present to the board and said each one will cost an estimated $535 each, which doesn’t include the filters, which Harrist said can be ordered at a reasonable cost. The filters, he added, can be installed by staff within the campuses. According to Harrist, quite a few stations will need to be purchased, the high school alone he estimated at least 10. 
“My thinking is that we will install them at the high school this year to see how it goes,” Harrist said. “Then if all goes well, they will be installed in the middle school next school year, and then at the other campuses.” 
Charles McDuffie, Chief of Police for Atlanta I.S.D., presented the safety report and bragged on the school system for the new security measures being taken and ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training that has been implemented for the new school year, to protect students and staff on all campuses in case of an emergency situation involving an intruder or active shooter. 
McDuffie said a lot of problems have been resolved throughout the school system.
“At the high school, this includes students leaving campus throughout the day and people we don’t know coming onto campus,” said McDuffie. “Between Mr. Harrist, I and the maintenance department, there has been a gate which is closed after the first bell rings.
All the campuses are visited and extensively monitored by campus officers and law enforcement at different times of the day, so Harrist said don’t be surprised when local State Troopers are seen on a campus, which could be at any given time.
Also, Harrist said locking doors are replacing existing doors on all campuses to prevent any unknown subject from entering a building without approval.
“The State mandated that there be a ‘See something, say something’ policy that encourages students that see something out of the ordinary they don’t feel should be there, they say something to us,” McDuffie said.
Harrist said there are a lot of plans initiated into the school system that encourage students to get involved in keeping the schools safe. He also said cameras have been replaced and more installed all through the district to aid in visual security, so authorities can better protect staff and students in a compromising situation.

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