Fifty head for model schools talk

Friday, May 20, 2011

Marshall County teachers are still excited about the message they heard from Dr. Bill Daggett at their in-service in February, and more than 50 are planning to attend his Model Schools Conference to be held in Nashville in late June.

This was brought up by Technology Supervisor Suzanne Ingram at the school board's budget committee meeting Monday night.

Ingram suggested using some of the Jobs Bill money to pay Daggett's company for a two-year intervention to help Marshall County's least successful teachers.

"They do a needs assessment and a gap analysis," Ingram explained. "They train the teachers to get back on track, and they also work with the district on a plan to support the schools.

"He can help us," Ingram concluded. "He's giving hope and support."

Budget committee members appeared enthusiastic about the idea of helping the teachers who are already in the system to improve.

"Increasing the capabilities of our own staff makes more sense," said Barbara Kennedy.

"We could offer our best teachers a supplement" to help bring the others up to standard, Kennedy said, referring to another possible use for Jobs Bill money.

"Or we could give extra to teachers willing to help with Distance Learning," added Ingram.

"Whatever we can do to improve instruction -- that's worth the money," said schools director Roy Dukes.

Budget director Sheila Cook-Jones handed out many pages of numbers, and gave a Power Point presentation on budgets in general. Cook-Jones was challenged by Kennedy and committee chairman Donnie Moses on numerous discrepancies between two sets of numbers she presented.

"We need to know which document is the official working budget," Kennedy exclaimed.

Later she added, "We need a good understanding of where the increases and decreases are coming from."

Kennedy also wanted to know if all the supervisors had reviewed their sections of the budget, and Cook-Jones had to answer, "No, ma'am."

Ingram was one who had done so, and said, "I asked for more."

Dukes had an additional sheet of items to be added to the budget, totaling $2,667,000, and said Ingram's additional funding was there.

"At what point will we have a single document that includes everything?" Kennedy asked.

"It should be the next step," Dukes replied.

Kennedy was already worrying about presenting the schools' budget to the county commission.

"I'd feel better if I knew what was included in 'other charges' and 'miscellaneous,'" she said. "It's hard to defend it to the commission if we don't understand it ourselves."

Moses agreed with her, stating, "You're not alone."

Discussion revealed that it was too early to estimate the state's Basic Education Program (BEP) payment and the value of the county's property tax "penny" would not be revealed until mid-June.

Dukes said he thought student numbers would "hold constant," but assistant director Dr. Larry Miller warned the county could get an influx of Alabama tornado victims.

"Just like we did after (Hurricane) Katrina," he said.

Finally, committee members managed to pin down a bottom line total.

"We're looking at an additional $3.6 million," Moses concluded.

"It's painfully obvious," Kennedy said. "It's time to ask people what they can do without. Something's got to give. We don't have the tax base to support this kind of expenditure."

Moses concurred, stating, "I suspect what they (the county commission) spent last year is all they'll want to spend this year. We're not going to get 10 percent more - it'll be one or two percent, if that. There's obviously a lot of money to find."

After nearly three hours, committee members decided to adjourn. They agreed they had to meet again before the June board meeting, and selected 6:30 p.m. May 31.