12/03/06 — Board of Education discusses spending

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Board of Education discusses spending

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 3, 2006 2:00 AM

KENANSVILLE -- With about $2.5 million of new money in hand, the Duplin County Board of Education spent part of its meeting Tuesday night deciding exactly how to spend its recent windfall from the county commissioners.

During the last month, the commissioners have given the school system $1 million from the county's general fund balance and $1.5 million from a capital reserve fund it holds for the schools.

The funds were given after school Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby made a formal request for more money Oct. 16. He wanted the funds to help increase teacher supplements, make some minor facility repairs and install new security devices in each school.

The commissioners allocated the schools the $1 million that day and the $1.5 million on Nov. 6.

"I think these funds are well-needed," Doby said. "The additional money from the county commissioners, we feel, is really going to make a significant difference."

Of the capital reserve funds, $600,000 will go toward new intercom systems, $568,000 toward new security cameras, $310,000 toward school bus cameras and $22,000 toward walkie-talkie radios for school administrators.

Splitting up the rest of the money was a little more contentious.

What Doby and his staff proposed -- and what the board ultimately approved -- was for $774,895 be used to increase teacher and staff supplements to the state averages and for the remaining $225,105 be used for facility facelifts. That money will join an additional $100,000 already in the budget for the facility facelifts, which will not include any large-scale renovations.

"Major renovations are a whole other ballgame," Doby said.

To some board members, though, splitting the million dollars ignored the most important issue -- especially with several teaching positions still vacant in the county.

"It's just something cosmetic, something temporary," board member Reginald Kenan said. "A teacher is more permanent than a facelift."

Doby, however, maintained that the facility facelifts, which will include some minor repairs, painting and pressure washing are necessary and that they will help the school district.

He said he's seen it happen at E.E. Smith Middle School, which received a fresh coat of paint this summer.

"The difference in the atmosphere, as I walked down the hall on the first day, it made me feel good," he said. "In terms of the facelifts, I think it really creates a different and fresh learning environment."

Besides, Doby continued, money is already in the budget for the vacant teaching positions and the across-the-board increases in supplements should help attract applicants to those openings.

"I still say teachers are a lot more important than a facelift, but I'm going to support it," Kenan finally agreed.

Now that the board has approved the spending plan, the next step will be to create a schedule for getting everything done. The goal is have that in place in the next couple of weeks.

Also Tuesday night, the board approved the creation of a committee to study the possibility of implementing school uniforms in some or all of the county schools. The committee will be made up of central office staff, individual school administrators, teachers, parents and one board member.

"I think it's a good way to study the feasibility and get buy-in from a number of customers," Doby said.