Board may seek $4.8M increase

Mar. 20, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

After requesting about $20 million from the county for this year’s budget but getting about $16 million, the Lee County Board of Education is considering asking for even more next year — to the tune of $21 million.

The school system’s budget proposal isn’t set in stone yet, though — the official request is due in May, and a public meeting will be held in April. But on Tuesday, the school board met and seemed receptive to a tentative budget proposal that requested an increase of $4.8 million from this year’s county budget of $16.2 million.

The school district’s entire budget this year, including county, state and federal funding, is nearly $85.7 million.

Superintendent Andy Bryan framed the new requests, especially the $3.4 million for academic or personnel expenses, as a way of aligning the school district’s budget with the district’s vision that all students should graduate with skills or certifications beyond a high school diploma:

• At the elementary school level, the district would spend nearly $500,000 to hire a specialized intervention teacher at all nine elementary schools to focus on the outliers — students who are far ahead of their classmates, or far behind. There’s also a $376,000 request for 12 more teaching assistants, which would give every kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade class an assistant.

• At the middle school level, the district would spend $166,000 to place a new AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher on all three campuses. Those teachers work with students specifically on creating post-secondary plans and goals.

• At the high school level, the plans to spend just more than $500,000 are less uniform. Lee Senior and Southern Lee would both receive an athletic trainer, an additional AVID teacher and the ability to give guidance counselors more hours. Lee Early College would get a Spanish teacher. Bragg Street Academy, an alternative school for students with behavioral or academic issues, would receive a career/technical instructor and a Junior ROTC instructor.

• There also would be new employees who wouldn’t work in classrooms, like three additional social workers, three additional nurses, five “instructional coaches” to help middle and high school teachers use educational technology better, and a speech pathologist to work with disabled children.

• There are also other administrative expenses. Most are relatively small, but there is a request for $642,000 to give all existing employees raises of either 1 or 3 percent.

Some of the larger requests in the $1.4 million extra for capital funds include $160,000 to be split among the district’s 16 campuses to buy new furniture, $107,000 to replace the roof at Floyd L. Knight, $100,000 to put in a rubberized track at Southern Lee, $145,000 to put down rubber mulch or regular mulch on every school playground and $90,000 to give all nine elementary schools $10,000 for other playground needs.

Bryan said he met with groups of fifth-graders at every school, and playground conditions were among their chief grievances.

The school board is also considering a request of $350,000 for outdoor restroom pods at J. Glenn Edwards and J.R. Ingram elementary schools, for students who have classes in mobile units outdoors. Both schools apparently are getting too crowded for all students to use the existing indoor bathrooms, Bryan said.

John Bonardi, who leads the board’s facilities and technology committee, also asked that each school submit any requests for security upgrades. Bryan said he’d look into it, but he wasn’t sure there was much more that needed to be addressed.

“We’ve done a lot already this year,” he said.

Mark Akinosho, the board’s vice chairman, said he was also glad to see the request for funds to give employees a raise, especially since the state has not done so in years.

Earlier in the meeting, the board also approved a resolution asking the General Assembly to support raises for all teachers, as well as reestablish supplemental pay for teachers with advanced degrees.

They also approved a resolution to ask the General Assembly to strike a new law that would replace teacher tenure with a contract system, and they approved of the Harnett County School Board’s selection of Dan Honeycutt to the Central Carolina Community College board of trustees. Honeycutt grew up in Harnett County and is a retired superintendent of Harnett County Schools.