NEWBERRY — Board salary, budget discussions and building updates were discussed Monday night at the April meeting of the Newberry County School Board.
Board members discussed cleaning up an inconsistency in policy with regard to their salaries.
In minutes from the late 1990s, Superintendent Bennie Bennett said the board clearly voted to change its compensation from a fixed amount to 90 percent of what county council was being compensated.
However, due to an error in policy, the board continued to be paid a fixed amount, one he estimates is about 50 percent of what county council is being paid now. A change to board compensation required board action.
Board member Clyde Hill proposed a compromise of the board accepting 70 percent of county council compensation as a way to resolve the issue, “since we did that in good faith and the ball was dropped.”
Lucy Anne Meetze said there was no percentage noted in the current policy though it was in the minutes. She proposed a dollar figure rather than a percentage.
Chairman Jody Hamm asked the benefit to leaving the amount a fixed amount.
Attaway said if the amount were a percentage then the board would not ever again have to revisit its compensation. If there were a fixed amount, periodic review and debate about increases for cost of living and other increases would be required.
Hugh Gray said he would rather see the board compensation tied to the five to 10 school districts most like Newberry.
Attaway countered that he would rather deal with Newberry County and not the policies of another county, something Ike Bledsoe agreed upon.
The motion by Hill and seconded by Lee Attaway passed 4-2 with Meetze and Gray opposing and with Bledsoe, Hamm, Hill and Attaway in favor. Jessie Reader was absent.
Budget talks continue
After Susan Dowd presented district financials, she said revenue projections remain the same as they did at the first budget work session.
She will meet with county treasurer Donna Lominack to discuss specific projections of the dollar amount for the school district.Right now total revenue is $46.6 million, a difference of over $2 million from last year.
Dowd reported a 1.6 percent consumer price index increase from vendors that will be passed on to the district.
Bennett said more items were left on the budget for the work session as a sort of wish list so board members could see possible options but now the district needs recommendations for things to change or ways to cut things out.
One option presented was for the district to potentially fund reading coaches at schools that received full funding but to refuse to fund the other four elementary schools under the governor’s initiative.
Another proposal was implementing STEM education in phases so some training and technology program costs could be deferred to 2015-16, a $70,000 reduction.
Meetze said smaller classroom size should be considered with budget discussions.
At the next work session K-3 classroom size and grades 4-5 classroom size will be discussed. Currently the student-teacher ratio per building for elementary schools is 20:1 and principals have latitude from grade to grade to make needed adjustments.
Dowd told the board that there, in practice, were smaller classes for K-3 than for grades 4-5.
Another suggestion was considering using Title I funding to help with class sizes and arts programs at MCMS. Currently some students are being turned away for band because the program is full.
District technology coach
Stipends for school-based technology leaders were discussed extensively as was the position of a district-wide technology coach. Bennett said 11 of 12 principals he spoke with requested the district wide coach.
NHS assistant principal Kyle Cannon spoke of the benefits a grant funded technology coach brought to NHS this year and shared how she was shared as a resource to elementary schools even though she was stationed at NHS.
Dowd explained how a reduction in EIA funds and changes to weighted student costs and EFA funds would result in the district picking up $600,000 of expense.
WCS principal Joey Haney spoke for the technology coach position and its importance in training all teachers to proficiently and confidently use technology in the classroom.
“The coach is needed so our students get the maximum benefit from the technology,” he said.
Downs also explained how effective targeted 10-minute coach-to-teacher training sessions are not only at NHS but in district middle and elementary schools as the NHS coach’s time and schedule allow.
“If I can see that practical use (to the position) then I could be persuaded (to support that over using funds for a stipend to pay a teacher at each school for being proficient in technology and addressing needs that way),” Bledsoe said.
At this point with the trimming mentioned the district would currently spend $707,000 of fund balance to balance the budget, so Bennett said clearly there was more budget work to do. Ike Bledsoe said he personally favored funding classroom teachers over funding technology.
discussion of budget issues to be explored at next budget workshop on Monday, May 12.
In other business:
• Assistant Superintendent Jim Suber gave a construction update. Staff has moved into the new district office on Highway 219. The May school board meeting will be held at the new facility’s conference room. Bennett commended Suber and Tina Shealy and Kenneth Rawls for the long hours they put in over spring break to make the move possible from the old district office on Martin Street.
• Dr. Cynthia Downs presented the list of textbooks teachers had approved for use in the 2014-15 school year. New textbook adoptions passed unanimously.
• Teacher recommendations for Rebecca Cromer (second grade Prosperity Rikard) and Bobby Harrington (keyboarding, Mid-Carolina Middle) were unanimously approved.
• Three teacher resignations, effective at the end of the school year, were approved unanimously.
• The district retirement reception will be at 6 p.m. May 29 at Newberry Middle School.