By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education has been considering its top budget needs within the county school system — starting with employee and teacher raises.
In a 6-3 vote during its Monday, March 15, called meeting, the board opted for a two-percent raise for all employees and an extra two-percent raise for teachers. Board members Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, David Hammond, Mitch Meredith, Mike Masters and Whitney Riddle were in favor of the motion. Board members Jason Day, Keith Ervin and Chad Fleenor were in opposition.
“This is what they’ve asked us to do for them,” said Buchanan, who made the motion for the raises. “I’m asking the board to support them. If we’re told no (by the Washington County Commission), we’re told no. But at least we’ve asked.”
Finance Director Brad Hale said the estimate for the raises totals about $78 million. Hale also said the budget is based off of rough revenue estimates until the school system receives its basic education program funding figure from the state which is anticipated next month.
“The first BEP estimate is scheduled for sometime in April,” Hale said. “… They may be a little behind this year getting that out. That will prevent us from really locking down our revenue projections until we get at least that first estimate.”
The board also unanimously voted for all head principals to become 12-month employees.
Director of Schools Bill Flanary said in talking to the system’s principals, most of them were in favor of becoming 12-month employees, but others are afraid if they become 12-month employees, the work will increase and their time off the clock will decrease.
Hammond said he felt increasing the principals’ employee status could help increase pay for principals. But that doesn’t mean more work is expected from them, he added.
“They are salaried. All we’re doing is making up the difference,” Hammond said. “We shouldn’t be asking them to work any more time. There are some principals who work on their laptop at home. We already know they’re putting in the hours … All we’re doing is compensating them for the time. We’re adjusting their salary. They are over 40 hours a week for the most part. Some of them work 70 hours a week during the school year. We’re not asking them to work more time. We’re just leveling their pay for what they are doing.”
The board also prioritized adding employees within the school system.
The board added a full-time nurse at Ridgeview Elementary, a counselor at Midway School, a special education teacher, two high school interventionists and two career technical education instructional assistants for the high school.
Ashley Keys, the school system’s director of secondary education, said the high school interventionist positions were requested in hopes of bridging the learning gap brought on by virtual learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need a teacher who can build a relationship with these kids who are struggling,” Keys said. “They will work with small groups in classrooms. They are support. They help plan with teachers … I am asking for it for two years just for the learning loss.”
The board also added to its preliminary budget $3,000 for all assistant principals, $30,000 for athletic coaching supplements and roughly $24,000 for art supplies.
The next BOE meeting is set for Monday, March 22, at 4 p.m. The agenda includes discussion on the Director of Schools’ contract.
For more information or to livestream the meeting, go to www.wce.org.