The Giles County Board of Education approved several budget items for the upcoming year in a called meeting May 18.
Director of Schools Dr. Vickie Beard reviewed the budget for 2021-22. The Tom Cronan Law was passed in 2018 requiring schools to provide physical education to students for a minimum of 60 minutes two times a week. Starting next year, these classes must be taught by a certified PE teacher, which will require the district to hire an additional PE teacher.
The district will also be required to hire a dually certified General Education and Special Education teacher for a new joint general-ed and special-ed pre-K program.
These salaries will be taken from the instructional salary budget.
Gov. Bill Lee recently approved a 4 percent increase in instructional salary budgets, which for Giles County was approximately $250,000 on the April estimates. A 2 percent raise for teachers would amount to between $500,000 and $600,000, which would not be covered by that amount. The school system is instead wanting to restructure the supervisor salary structure to retain and recruit supervisors and hire the three additional staff required by the state.
The supervisor positions are considered promotions for administrators in the district’s organizational chart, but many administrators who move to work at the Central Office as supervisors would take pay cuts of $17,000-$30,000 per year based on experience. Dr. Beard proposed bringing these supervisor positions more in-line with an assistant principal salary schedule. The Board voted to approve this restructure, and will review the salary structure during the budget review.
The school system had a $234,713 surplus in the 2020-21 school year, which will be rolled over into the general fund. The general fund balance can not be used for recurring costs, such as teacher salaries or raises. Dr. Beard proposed using this amount to pay another bonus for teachers instead of a raise, to be given during the next school year.
The county is having a difficult time recruiting and maintaining school bus drivers due to the cost and effort it takes to obtain and maintain a CDL, and the monthly gross income of just over $1,000.
The district is looking at allowing and encouraging current school employees to become bus drivers. One full-time and three substitute drivers are needed.
The board discussed the possibility of paying for interested drivers’ CDL tests and physicals, and the possibility of a sign-on bonus, as is done in other counties.
Alicia Perkins, the new Instructional Technology Facilitator, presented information about Blackboard, a product she suggests the county use for hosting a revamped Giles County School System website.
The site would be hosted on Amazon Web, and has modern, streamlined templates and drag-and-drop functionality to make website creation easy for the district. The platform has a $19,400 initial setup cost for the district site, eight school sites, and an app, followed by $6,200 per year to maintain these.
“Our district definitely needs marketing and branding,” Board Chairman Knox Vanderpool said. “I like the cohesiveness of what this could be. I’m really excited to see our district brought together this way.”
Vanderpool said the $500 per month price tag to host the site was a good value, in his experience.
The board voted to approve the purchase.
In other business:
• A Giles County School System employee was granted four years experience toward the salary schedule for their military service. The county also allows military service to count toward retirement.
Military service salary allocation is allowable at the discretion of the local school board, so Dr. Beard proposed writing a policy to formalize this practice to be in-line with the county’s. Thus an employee with four years military experience would be able to retire after 26 years with 30 years experience counted.
The board approved adding this policy, which will have its first reading at the June board meeting.
• The board voted to purchase two commercial-sized Spartan mowers for $10,000 each using surplus money from ESSR funds from the CARES Act.
Maintenance Supervisor Mike Watson and Assistant Director of Schools Keith Stacey sought quotes from many vendors, and chose mowers from Southern Middle Lawn and UTB in Ethridge to replace two older mowers.
• The wastewater tank for Richland requires a new liner. The lowest bid came in at $46,500 from Spectra Tech out of Noblesville, Ind., for the 1,882 square-foot liner. The work will require a shutdown of the school’s water system, so the school system will complete the work just prior to the start of summer camp.
The board approved this project.
• The board approved budget line items for: 141 - Special Projects; 177 - Capital Projects; 178 - Renovations (specifically the Wold HFR project); and 143 - Cafeteria.
The next regular board meeting will be Thursday, June 10, and the next work session Thursday, June 24, at 5 p.m. at the Central Office.