School board, commissioner meeting will be interesting

Mar 26, 2017

School and county leaders should have plenty to discuss when they meet for a special-called meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Education Center in Clyde.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the impacts of House Bill 13, teacher supplement pay and other items related to the school budget.

There should be plenty of frustration from all corners when the proposed legislation in Raleigh reducing class sizes in kindergarten through grade three is discussed. Everyone who supports education believes this a wonderful idea, but when the state passes a mandate without accompanying funds to cover it, (which appears to be what will happen), local government leaders cringe.

The estimated price tag for the proposal in Haywood nears half a million, an amount the board needed to increase supplement pay for teachers who can drive 20 miles to a different county and earn substantially more money. Haywood has lost nearly 30 highly trained and prized teachers to its nearby competition who offer from two to four times more in supplemental pay.

Out of the Haywood School System's $16-plus million budget provided by county taxpayers, about $2 million is set aside to supplement state salary levels, a practice followed in many districts

Not all districts grant supplements at a straight percentage across the board, however, and not all offer supplements to all employees, as does Haywood. Presently, every single school district employee, whether they work in the cafeteria, the bus garage, as clerical support or in teaching and administration, receives a minimum supplement of 2 percent. Those with teaching certificates, which includes both teachers and administrators, receive a higher supplement — 4.5 percent if they have worked for the system less than 20 years, 4.75 percent if more than that.

A study committee that included both school and county representatives, concluded Haywood's supplement needed to be increased to remain competitive, but in a letter to the school board, the commissioners said the school district would have to find the necessary funds from the money it currently receives.

The commissioners also offered to pay for a consultant to help the board with the challenge. It's an offer the school system is considering, though the recommendations may not be ones that follow traditional schools of thought within the district.

Taking a more education-focused approach to supplemental salaries, for instance, could lead to a number of different options when deciding how to more carefully target available dollars to the most pressing needs.

For instance, there are certain teaching specialties that are notoriously hard to fill — often they include special education, science and math. There are non-certified positions that are equally hard to fill, namely bus drivers.

A consultant may recommend revamping the supplement formula to better recruit for hard-to-fill positions, and make adjustments to retain experienced teachers or administrators, if that is one of the school governing board's goals.

There may be other efficiencies a consultant has found in other school systems that could work in Haywood. Change is hard, but as educational dollars for traditional public education diminish, there are likely hard choices to be made.

Another issue the school board and school district need to iron out includes the future of the former Central Elementary School building, which has been vacant for almost a year.

The school board has determined they have no need for the building, and if the county doesn’t need it either, it can be sold with the school district pocketing the money.

The sticky wicket in the situation is where the central administrative office would move should the county sell the former hospital for low-income apartment development, as has been proposed numerous times. It is the county, not the school district, which would have to provide office space for the school district under an agreement inked long ago.

While the school district might not need Central Elementary, the county might need it down the road for school office space, thus the challenge.

The public is invited to the meeting, but for those unable to make it, no worries. The Mountaineer will stand in for you and let you know exactly what happened.