The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted the 2011-12 consolidated budget for schools as approved by the county commission Monday night.
The budget includes a 3.2% pay raise for support staff or non-certified personnel and a 1.6% local increase to match the state's 1.6% pay hike for certified personnel (teachers).
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby asked for the school board's input on which new positions should be funded in this budget.
The board voted in favor of funding three assistant principals, including one each at DeKalb West, Northside Elementary, and Smithville Elementary School; a new fifth grade teaching position at Northside Elementary School; a special education teacher at DCHS; and a support staff site coordinator at DCHS.
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Proposed new positions which will not be funded for now include an additional math teacher at DeKalb County High School, an assistant band teacher, and assistant soccer coaches.
Director Willoughby explained that these new positions would have to be funded from the school system's state basic education (BEP) reserve account, " When we approve this consolidated budget we will be doing basically the same thing that we have done in the past. Last year we used $640,000 of our BEP reserve funds (to balance the budget). We ended the year $780,000 (to the good). This year, if we did employ everyone we had on the list that we sent to the county commission on the second go around (revised budget), we would be using $990,521 out of BEP reserves. It is our hope that we do not use all of our reserves," said Willoughby
The board voted to authorize funding for the three assistant principal positions, one each at DeKalb West, Smithville Elementary, and at Northside Elementary, on a ten month, two week contract each. The new assistant principals will help perform teacher evaluations, as required by the state. A total of $225,000 is figured into the budget to fund those positions which Director Willoughby said are needed. " It is my thoughts that we cannot complete the requirements that are made on us by the state department of education without having these three assistant principals. These assistant principals will be at DeKalb West, Smithville Elementary, and Northside Elementary. One person has expressed an interest, who is already an assistant principal at one of our secondary schools, of applying at one of our elementary schools. So if that goes through, that may be sort of a flip flop and we would be filling that secondary position. It wouldn't be any more money. We're still just talking about three new positions at $225,000. What we did to come up with that $225,000 figure, we took the assistant principals that we have. We took the highest paid assistant principal and the number of years that this person has and multiplied that times three. We're going to save some money though because more than likely when we hire a teacher to be an assistant principal, the person that we're hiring will not be getting paid to teach. What I want to do with the three assistant principals, all of our present assistant principals are paid on eleven months. Our new assistant principals would be at ten months and two weeks. So therefore, we would be saving two weeks pay there also, " said Willoughby.
Fifth district board member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III added that based on the state requirements increasing the number of teacher evaluations each year, the school system has little choice but to add these new assistant principal positions. "In regards to the budget, my major concern is, when it comes to a point where the state hands down a mandate that the county commission has to add another cell to the landfill, they have to do it. When the state tells the board of education that we have three buses we have to retire and put three new buses on the road, we have to do it. The unfortunate part about these assistant principals is, the state says we have to go from evaluating teachers two times in ten years to four times each year which is forty times in ten years, unless you're tenured and then its six times a year in five years so you're going to be evaluated thirty times. The state has said we have to do this but the state didn't say we have to hire assistant principals. They just want us to get the job done. They lay out these guidelines and then drop the ball in our lap. For those reasons, I would like for the board to consider looking into our reserve account to fund these positions. If it comes about next year, that they're (state) not going to fund it and we can't afford to fund it, the county commission can't afford to look into it for us, then we may have to re-think the issue and back up. But we need those assistant principals," said Evins
Seventh district member Johnny Lattimore added " We're not trying to avert the county commission but this is something this board feels we must do because if we don't do the evaluations, we stand in danger of losing $13 million in funding from the state so we don't have any other option in my opinion," said Lattimore.
The school board voted unanimously to adopt the consolidated budget, as approved by the county commission, and to authorize funding from BEP reserves for the three new assistant principal positions. All members were present except for First district member John David Foutch.
Although third district member Kenny Rhody made a motion to add an assistant band teacher position, the motion failed to receive a second as the board has chosen not to provide the monies right now. The board, however, is expected to revisit the issue again next month.
Board member Lattimore said although all new positions sought by the board of education in this budget are needed, including a new assistant band teacher, he fears the school board cannot to afford to fund them all this year. "There's no way that I can see that we can fund all these things. If we fund everything that we've discussed in the workshop before this meeting and then next year we have to go back to the county commission and ask them to pay for these three assistant principal positions, and then we have to go back (to county commission) and ask for $667,000 to replace the job's grant funds (which will not be available next year), and then ask (county commission) for whatever other needs that arise, then that's going to be a big tax increase," said Lattimore.
Rhody responded "I was a band student. I've watched the band. There's twenty six new members this year. The numbers are up. There's no band program at the west school. I feel like we've got to get our younger students a feeder program built back that we've lost. We dropped the ball a few years ago when we (cut funding) for an assistant band director we had. Our band really suffered on account of it. The band got down to twenty members. I feel this is very important," said Rhody.
Sixth district member Bruce Parsley inquired about whether adding a part-time assistant band position is an option. Director Willoughby said he had not considered it. Board members suggested that a part-time position might not have to be a new hire, but a supplement for someone already in the school system.
The board voted 5 to 1 to authorize $24,000 in funding for a site coordinator who will be employed on a 200 day contract. Board member Lattimore said he wanted to vote yes but he cast a no vote based on funding concerns next year. Director Willoughby said by adding this new position, the school system will be saving money in the long run. "We have had an increase in the number of students wanting to take the on-line, distance learning, dual credit type courses and the number of courses that are offered has also increased. This, in a way, is saving us money rather than hiring teachers to teach these extra courses. For the program to be as successful as it needs to be, we need a site coordinator who could be there with the students and monitor what is going on and make phone calls at home if needed," said Willoughby
Meanwhile, Director Willoughby said a new teaching position at Northside Elementary school has already been filled based on the need due to the state mandated pupil/teacher ratio. "Numbers (of students) came in and we did not have a choice. I might add if we get very many more students at DeKalb West, the numbers will force us to hire another teacher there," he said.
Willougby added that the new special education teacher at the high school has also been hired. That too, he said, was not an option for the school system based on state and federal law requirements for meeting needs of special education students.
Fourth district member Billy Miller asked that the issue of funding assistant soccer coaches be re-visited possibly at the next meeting. "I don't think right now is the time, but I do think we need to look into it to see what we can do to resolve the situation. I've had several individuals to come to me personally and want us to look into this and see if there is any kind of way to get them (soccer program) some help or relief. There may not be anything that we can do but I don't think we should turn a deaf ear and act like we're not doing anything about it," said Miller.
Attendance Supervisor Clay Farler gave a report on student enrollment as of the eighth day of school, Thursday August 11. Farler said a total of 3,062 students are currently enrolled system-wide from pre-K to high school students including the adult high school. That's up from 2,994 students enrolled as of the eighth day of school last year. Current student enrollment at each school is as follows: DCHS 850, DeKalb Middle School 535, Northside Elementary 623, Smithville Elementary 605, and DeKalb West 449.
In other business, Director of Schools Willoughby presented his monthly report on personnel to the Board of Education.
Those employed since last month include the following:
Carl Ray Cantrell, custodian at Smithville Elementary School
January Agee, teacher at Northside Elementary School (new)
Jamie Trebing, teacher at DCHS (replaces Michelle Fontanez)
Sherree Macemon, teacher at DCHS (new special education teacher)
Nallely Ortega-Prater, teacher at DCHS (replaces Brittany Willoughby)
Jennifer Lewis, English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Northside Elementary (federal funds)
Lindsey Barrett, teacher at Smithville Elementary School (replaces Jane Parsley)
Amanda Vaughn, teacher at Smithville Elementary School (replaces Fay Turner)
Joshua Gulley, teacher at DCHS (replaces Rebecca Purdue)
Jared West, teacher at DeKalb Middle School (replaces Ben Johnson in special education)
Justin Nokes, teacher at DeKalb Middle School (replaces Lisa Cripps)
Rebecca Hawkins, transferred from substitute to full time bus assistant
Lisa Cripps, transferred from teacher at DeKalb Middle School to Secondary Instructional Supervisor
Leave of Absence
Margaret Nichols, teacher at Smithville Elementary School, leave as requested
Heather Blankenship, special education assistant at Northside Elementary
Jean Neal, bus assistant
Michelle Hoyle, Pre-K educational assistant at Smithville Elementary
Frederick Sanders, special education teacher at DCHS
Clay Bumbalough, custodian at Smithville Elementary School.