Federal funding here for schools

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More than $1 million of federal money is to be spent on education in Marshall County before Sept. 30, 2012, and some of it can be spent on teacher bonuses.

At a work session Monday night, schools director Roy Dukes told school board members his ideas for spending the $1.2 million that is Marshall County's share of the $10 billion Jobs Bill, signed into law on Aug. 10.

Tennessee as a whole received $195.8 million, to be spent "to save or create jobs."

Dukes' ideas include paying for:

* Academic coaches;

* Salaries for several teachers with general purpose budget money transferred to the school budget's fund balance;

* Bonuses to teachers; and

* Classroom aides.

Dukes explained that the money has to be spent on personnel who are attached to a school, not based at Central Office.

"Just think about what you want to do and we'll work from there," Dukes said.

Randy Perryman immediately had another idea. "Is it a way to get a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Lewisburg Middle School?" he asked.

"I would really like to see that," Barbara Kennedy exclaimed.

Dukes said he thought Jobs Bill money could be used for an SRO.

Kennedy also wanted to see bonuses for the teachers. "They're in the trenches," she said.

"Four hundred and fifty to 500 dollars each would not be too big a stretch," said Donnie Moses.

Chairman Mike Keny returned to Dukes' first idea: academic coaches. "That intrigues me," he said.

"We could set up a situation where they rotate through the schools," Dukes said. "We could also have 'graduation coaches' to help students who want to drop out."

"So we're pretty firm on the SRO and the teacher bonuses?" summarized Keny, and board members agreed, urging Dukes to get back with Sheriff Norman Dalton to calculate the cost of an SRO for the rest of the school year.

Money matters dominated discussion at the work session.

"I'm hearing stuff about bills not getting paid," said Kennedy. "That makes us all look bad."

Dukes told board members that he was "working on a fix" that would require departments to hand in their invoices twice a month.

"Why not every Friday?" Keny asked, adding that this would prevent bills that were "Net 10 Days" from being paid late.

Board members also discussed the salary schedule for classified staff. Dukes' administrative assistant Rhonda Poole had requested information from other counties, and said most systems had a starting salary for each type of position, and pay raises in steps, according to years of experience. Actual amounts paid vary widely, with Bristol City Schools starting a school secretary at a higher pay rate than the same job earns in Giles County after 16 years.

Board members agreed they would aim for broad job descriptions, and try to bring salaries in to line.