05/01/13 — Board to come up with 'critical' needs

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Board to come up with 'critical' needs

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 1, 2013 1:46 PM

A two-hour school board work session Tuesday afternoon concluded with no vote taken on the 2013-14 budget and recommendations for district officials to product a list of the most "critical needs" in the schools in time for Monday's regular meeting.

The looming May 15 deadline to produce a budget for the county commission, coupled with the lack of a state budget, left the school board with more questions than answers.

According to the draft version of the budget presented by Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for fiscal services, the county appropriation request remains the same as the previous year, $18.2 million.

But board members supported asking for additional funding for facilities and repairs.

"I do feel like we need to ask and ask specifically," said board member Arnold Flowers, who said it is important to campaign for the commission's support.

"They have all said that they support education. I have understood them to say that maybe perhaps education had not been given as much ado in the past and they need to do some catching up, and that's my feeling."

Flowers said he favors having a list of the most pressing needs and presenting them to the commission and asked Ms. Barwick about providing one.

Ms. Barwick said she had visited each school and compiled an individual list of upgrades needed. But John Grantham, board chairman, told Flowers it was not her job to prioritize the items. That responsibility fell to the school board, he said.

Schools superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor said it would be helpful to have a number in mind for the local funding request, otherwise they're just "shooting in the dark."

"We need to be able to say specifically what we need," agreed board member Rick Pridgen. "We have asked for stuff before and we haven't got it but we did ask for it.

"I hate to see us get behinder and behinder and keep putting Band-Aids on it."

"We used to get a 5 percent increase every year from the county commissioners," Taylor told the board. "That stopped about four or five years ago. We could count every year on that 5 percent increase."

While that may not be the case now, the superintendent said the commission has expressed a willingness to support the schools.

A brief debate ensued about how to proceed -- whether the subject should be delegated to the finance committee or the facilities committee for further study prior to the Monday meeting.

Flowers suggested that wherever the most pressing areas are, be it a new school roof or shoring up technology in anticipation to the transition to online testing, he would appreciate a list of recommendations.

Taylor and Ms. Barwick agreed to provide one for the board in time for Monday's meeting.

Grantham also suggested the district consider a new hire.

"We need a facility director," he said. He commended Ms. Barwick and others, who have absorbed the role formerly held by retired administrator Sprunt Hill.

Grantham said he would recommend it be an action item for an upcoming board meeting, or at least in consideration for the next superintendent.