08/10/04 — Schools send new commpromise plan to commissioners

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Schools send new commpromise plan to commissioners

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 10, 2004 2:03 PM

The school board will send a four-point proposal to the county commissioners today, hoping to reach a compromise on supplemental pay for teachers as well as boost the supplement for support staff.

At a special called meeting Monday night, the board also agreed it is necessary that the two boards meet soon to resolve their differences.

Board Chairman Pete Gurley said the meeting needs to happen right away to end the rift between the boards. He urged schools Superintendent Steven Taylor to contact the county manager to schedule the meeting.

The board's action was in response to the commissioners' latest rejection of a compromise on the commissioners' order that teacher supplemental pay be increased. The school board released its four-point recommendation after consulting for an hour in closed session with its lawyer.

The board's first request is that the county commissioners allow the schools to raise the teacher supplement as much as it can with the $762,924 increase the commissioners have provided for this year. The commissioners want a 3 percent increase in pay. The school board says it can do 1.5 percent.

The board will then cut $916,837 from its budget and use part of it for increasing supplemental pay for certified support staff at the same rate as classroom teachers. The commissioners, however, are requiring only teacher supplemental pay be increased.

Taylor said the board would also take under advisement the areas where commissioners suggested cuts, but the school board would have final say over where the cuts come from.

Finally, the board requested that the commissioners consider a commitment to continually fund the recurring annual cost of providing an increase in supplements for classroom teachers only and to look at ways to increase the percentage in future years.

The proposal, Taylor said, meets the commissioners more than halfway.

"We were going to cut more than we were giving," he said.

Where the cuts would be made has not been determined, Taylor said, pending resolution between the two boards. Input would be sought from the schools when the time comes, he said.

The board stood united on its request.

"I'm excited about this four-point recommendation that we're sending over there," Gurley said. "I feel like it's an extremely fair proposal. We're doing exactly what the commissioners have asked us to do in the beginning.

"Teachers won't get quite the supplement that was asked for, but we're coming up with a whole lot more money than we offered to begin with. If the commissioners can't accept this, I don't know where we go from here."

Board member John P. Grantham said that in his 10 years on the board, this has been the low point in its relationship with the county commissioners.

"I'm not really disheartened, though," he said. "I think you can have one loose cannon to turn the whole process around in a couple of months, and one can turn it around again."

Board member Lehman Smith said he had been elected to the board during a period of disagreement between the two boards, but somehow the boards managed to achieve a good working relationship.

"What has happened in the last two years, I'm not sure," he said. "I think mainly it's the lack of communication."

He agreed that a joint meeting is imperative.

"The only way that I feel that we can rectify this as quickly as possible is to have a meeting with our full board and their full board," he said. "That way, it won't be any more of 'he said, he said.'"

Other board members said the additional supplement for support staff was important.

Board member Shirley Sims said she has been saddened by the inequity in paying certified educators. She cited the importance of those in supporting roles, such as guidance counselors, social workers and media coordinators.

"I'm really pulling for all of our classroom teachers, but I'm also pulling for those other people," she said. "It's not right to give something to some and none to others."

Ms. Sims said, "I never thought I would see a day, especially in 2004, that somebody would even consider, even think about not including someone who gives such service" as support staff members do.

Board member Thelma Smith said that not compensating the support staff not only creates low morale in the schools but discourages retention.

"We're running them away," she said. "If we don't pay them here, they're going to go and get paid somewhere else."

Board member Rick Pridgen said he does not want the support staff to get discouraged.

"We want them to know that we're really fighting for them, pulling for them, and we don't want them to be left out," he said. "We don't need to be creating things that will run them away from trying to better themselves, if that's what they have a calling to do."