04/08/07 — Duplin board puts freeze on disputed supplements

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Duplin board puts freeze on disputed supplements

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 8, 2007 2:00 AM

KENANSVILLE -- With concerns about the distribution of supplements for school personnel being voiced again this past week, the Duplin County Board of Education took a step to try to diffuse the tension that situation has created.

Voting unanimously, the board decided to freeze the second half of the supplements, except those due to teachers.

"This issue has kept me bothered for a while," board member Reginald Kenan said after adding the matter to the top of the board's agenda and proposing the motion. "Personally, I think there needs to be some adjustment."

The supplement issue has come up several times since it was approved in October, with residents, teachers and county commissioners complaining about the distribution and the distribution process.

"We all know what the issues are," Judy Malpass, a counselor at Beaulaville Elementary School and president of the Duplin County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said. "It's been public knowledge since January. If nothing is done, then you may be losing some good teachers this year."

The additional money for the supplements came from a $1 million allocation made by the county commissioners in October.

Of those funds, nearly $772,000 was put into the supplements -- an average of $2,967 for teachers ($2,450 minimum and $3,650 maximum), $5,454 for assistant principals and line administrators, $7,000 for kindergarten through sixth-grade principals, $8,500 for kindergarten through eighth-grade principals, $13,000 for high school principals and central office staff such as the superintendent and $500 for other full-time (30 hours per week) staff such as teacher assistants, custodians and bus drivers.

Of particular concern to the teachers was the vast disparity between their supplements and those given to administrators.

It has, board member Willie Gillespie said, "created extreme unrest in the educational community," which he and others worry will ultimately hurt the students.

"We need to solve this problem and move on to some of the other issues we need to move forward on," board member Jennings Outlaw said.

Among those other issues is school uniforms.

After holding several public hearings across the county in March, the board decided to delay making a decision until May.

Members acknowledged, though, that the majority of people at those hearings spoke out against a uniform policy.

"We did go out around the county and the majority of those who commented at the public hearings were all opposed to the school uniforms," board chairwoman Emily Manning said. "I feel like there are probably as many in the community who didn't speak who could go either way, but my feeling, since the majority of those who spoke out were opposed, would be to forget the school uniforms.

"I would say let's just enforce the policy on the dress code and follow it strictly."

Those who spoke against the uniforms, Pam Edwards, director of student support services, said, were concerned about the costs associated with more laundry and buying two sets of clothes, as well as their children's individuality.

Those who spoke in favor, she added, said they had seen it work elsewhere, improving school pride and decreasing disciplinary problems.

For the most part, the board seemed inclined to agree with Mrs. Manning and the vocal public opinion.

Only Kenan noted that the majority of the teachers -- by a margin of nearly five to one -- wanted school uniforms.

"The teachers who deal with it every day want this. I just can't get that out of my mind," he said as the board decided to wait until May 1 to revisit the issue.

The board also took action on the 2007-08 school calendars -- approving one for the county's two year-round schools, Warsaw Elementary and Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary and a traditional one for everybody else.

The only change was in the traditional calendar, which will now be on nine-week grading periods. Parents will still receive progress reports every three weeks.

"I really don't feel it's any less information (for parents)," superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby said. "I would say throughout the state, the vast majority of school systems use a nine-week grading period. It matches up better with their assessments."

And finally, the board approved a 2007-08 operating budget request of $12.3 million and a capital outlay request of nearly $2.3 million from the county commissioners.

Last year, the board asked for $10.5 million in operating expenses, but received less than $7.6 million. However, it was later given an additional $1 million in operating expenses and $1.5 million for capital outlay.

The school system's budget request was due to county staff this past week, but the school board plans to meet later this month to finalize the spending plan.