Teachers at some Calhoun County schools were transferred too often this year, three members of the system’s Board of Education said Thursday, because of what they perceive as poor planning for enrollment spikes.
“It sounds like we need to get a better grip on our numbers when we start out,” board member Debbie Hess said.
System administrators, meanwhile, said they’d done their best to anticipate where students would show up, and that declining state funding makes addressing the problem tougher. Systemwide, enrollment was projected by the Alabama Department of Education to decrease this year, continuing a trend that reduces the amount of state funding the system receives. Reversing the trend has been a topic of discussion at several of the board’s meetings since the start of this school year.
Hess and two other members raised the transfer issue at the board’s meeting Thursday night, during a wide-ranging discussion that began over how much certain members of the system’s support staff are paid.
Called paraprofessionals, the staff members aren’t licensed to teach but assist teachers in classrooms across the system. The board on Thursday approved a resolution expressing appreciation for the work they do, and recognized individually seven of them.
Board member Tobi Burt said the women ought to be paid more than they are, and said he was frustrated that other system employees had in recent years been given raises.
“We need teachers,” Burt said, adding that he would not vote to give any raise “until we start taking care of everybody.”
Burt, Hess and member Jeff Winn said after the meeting concluded that they were concerned about the number of times that teachers had been transferred from one school to another, where enrollment had gone higher than anticipated.
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” Winn said.
Aside from discussion of the issue, the board’s members also picked Mike Almaroad as chairman for the next year, and chose outgoing chairman David Gilmore as vice chair.
Almaroad during the meeting said the issues raised by Burt, Hess and Winn ought to be discussed in a work session, perhaps before the board’s next meeting in January.
After the meeting ended, system Superintendent Joe Dyar said he was glad the discussion — which was at times tense — occurred.
Dyar looks forward to providing data on who has received a raise from the board in the last several years, he said.
Moving teachers after school has started isn’t something administrators want to do, he said, but “to only have two or three adjustments that have to be made in seven school districts — that is pretty phenomenal.”
In other business, the board:
— Agreed to spend more than $100,000 replacing lunch counters at Weaver and Alexandria elementary schools, with Birmingham’s Dixie Store Fixtures the supplier chosen.
— Heard a recap of the last fiscal year’s finances from Chief Schools Finance Officer Tina Parris. The system ended the year with $550,000 more in its general fund, which pays for school operations; Parris said this was due to careful budgeting, and higher than anticipated revenues.
Approximately 75 percent of the $71.3 million the system spent in the last fiscal year went toward teaching costs. Administrative costs, meanwhile, accounted for 2.73 percent of the system’s budget. Parris reported a 2.85 months’ operating reserve, higher than seen last year.
— Disbursed to each of the schools in the system just more than $19,000 in money collected over the year from the sale of specialized license plates.