Ahead of next week's school board meeting, members of the budget committee on Monday night grappled with the details of employing a school resource officer for Lewisburg Middle School.
"We're getting bogged down in the minutiae," Barbara Kennedy exclaimed. "It's time we moved on this. We've dragged our feet, for whatever reason, for a semester."
Schools Director Roy Dukes has been discussing the SRO with Sheriff Norman Dalton, and has a list of equipment that must be purchased to equip a deputy. The cost has gone down from the original estimate, but is still high at $69,350 for the first year. This is broken down into $36,850 for equipment (including $2,500 for police academy training) and $32,500 for salary. Equipment is said to be a one-time purchase, and the second and subsequent years' cost would be just the salary.
Meanwhile, Dukes says he's learned that federal Jobs Bill money cannot be used directly to pay an SRO. It can be used indirectly, by using money saved in the budget when paying teachers with Jobs Bill money.
Specialized SRO training takes a week, but training for certification as a law officer lasts six weeks at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy at Donelson.
"We need to find someone who's already trained," Board Chairman Mike Keny said. "It's no good to have someone gone for six weeks."
Kennedy added: "I'd like someone with more experience."
The budget committee continued to debate how to spend Jobs Bill money, with bonuses for teachers and classified employees still a possibility. Increasing the fund balance by paying some teachers from the $1.2 million allocated to Marshall County, and moving their pay from the regular budget to increase the fund balance is recommended by Dukes. He reminded committee members that next year the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be over, and other money will have to be found for programs currently covered by what's commonly called stimulus funds.
School-based academic coaches are another possible area for Jobs Bill spending, but finding where they are most needed is complicated by the fact that the "State Report Card" has not yet been released. Dukes explained this is an essential tool for highlighting areas of deficiency in instruction so that these can be corrected and students brought up to standard. The report card usually comes out by early November, but is delayed this year by technical problems and also by the new standards and new cut scores. Dukes pointed out that even if the report card comes out before the end of the year, there's very little time to correct any deficiencies before TCAP tests are given in April.
Kennedy suggested that the schools try to mobilize a volunteer workforce of retirees, parents, and grandparents who could come into the classrooms and give students one-to-one help.
Dukes appointed Ken Lee as assistant director in August, and an assistant director's salary was included in the budget. It proved impossible to find a replacement math and physics teacher for Cornersville High School, so the assistant director's salary was taken back out of the budget until January. Now it may not be needed at all this year: Dukes reported Lee, a major in the Tennessee Army National Guard, had told him he believes he might soon be deployed to Afghanistan.
Budget Director Sheila Cook-Jones reported that the problem with late payment of maintenance department invoices had been corrected, and promised she would have year-to-date figures for board members at their Monday meeting.