County Schools Superintendent Nancy Horton gave a "State of the System" address at a school board workshop Thursday, detailing educational accomplishments and goals of the last few years.

Among the areas Horton highlighted in her 90-minute presentation were efforts to reduce school system costs and bring in outside funding.

In 2005, the system achieved a "drastic reduction" in cafeteria upkeep costs, Horton said, by hiring a maintenance staffer to do preventative work, rather than using outside contractors when equipment malfunctioned.

One cost-cutting measure planned for 2006 is creating a motor pool for central office supervisors. Currently, the system pays 44.5 cents per mile to employees who use their own vehicles for work trips. At that rate, a trip from the central office in Cullman to Cold Springs costs the system about $35, Horton said.

The school system will attempt to buy four used vehicles from the state, which will be put into service as driver's education cars, then use the old driver's ed vehicles as a motor pool for administrators.

Outside grant funding in 2005 dropped slightly from 2004 figures, Horton said. In 2004, the school system earned $1.49 million in grants; in 2005, about $1.3 million.

Horton also noted improvements made to school facilities and upcoming projects. Two items of note were:

• The system will move from wireless Internet connections on school campuses to fiber-optic service by Bellsouth, more than doubling bandwidth while reducing costs. They provide the capacity needed to use a statewide program called ACCESS, which streams video classes for students into schools where certain courses are not taught.

• The town of Garden City and the Cullman County Economic Development Office have applied for grants to build two storm shelters. The school system will allow the shelters to be built on the Garden City Elementary School campus, provided that in the event of a tornado, students have first access to the shelters. The shelters will hold a total of 190 people; Garden City has 127 students.

The board also viewed a video on Alabama Ethics Commission guidelines for public officials and employees.

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