The school board chairpersons and superintendents from I-SS and Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) met with our county commissioners at the Board of Education office in Mooresville June 28 and 29, 2012. The purpose of the meetings were to let the commissioners know that both school boards would be bringing forth the recommendations from the Facilities Task Force at their July meetings. These meetings were not in violation of the open meetings law and neither board had a quorum present. These recommendations were reported to the I-SS Board of Education at their Committee of the Whole July 2nd and were approved by our board at their regular monthly meeting July 9th. The superintendents and board chairs from both systems also asked the commissioners for guidance and recommendations on the possibility of funding for the projects included in the report from the Facilities Task Force. The feedback that we received from the commissioners was that the economic picture of our community appears to be improving slightly, but the local economy is not strong enough to support additional capital debt at this time. This information was shared with the full I-SS Board of Education July 2nd and covered by the media. The recommendations of the task force are pubic records, and are available to the public. Historically, the I-SS Board of Education and the Commissioners have enjoyed a strong working relationship, which includes open two-way communication on an individual basis.
I-SS did not make a formal request for a bond referendum. We posed the questions of when funding might be available and whether a bond referendum might be feasible sometime in the future. The feedback we received was that the current economic picture makes it unlikely that funding will be available and that the question of funding will have to be revisited at a later date. The board and superintendent have fulfilled their duty in making the needs of the school district known. It is now up to the commissioners and the citizens to decide how, when, and if there is a response to those needs.The county is already $250 in debt. How much debt can the county handle?
The Board of Education and Superintendent have a legal and ethical obligation to plan for the long-term facility needs of the school system. To fulfill this obligation the Facilities Task Force was convened in February 2012. The Task Force includes two school board members from each district, two county commissioners, and citizens from the community. The plan that was approved by the Board of Education July 9th reflected this work of this group. It is a long-term plan of ten or more years. The commissioners have made it very clear that it is the obligation of the school board to make the facility needs known and that it is the commissioners’ obligation to secure the funding and the method to pay any indebtedness. This question has to be answered by the commissioners and the citizens. However, it should be noted that the $250 million in debt includes all county projects, and not only school projects.Why do so many teachers often feel that they do not have adequate supplies and materials?
The instructional supply budget from the state has steadily declined since 2008-2009. The state budget for instructional supplies in the 2008-2009 was $990,439. That same budget for the 2011-2012 school year was reduced to $669,225. There will be a slight improvement in the budget for next year, up to $687,376, but it is still well below the funding that we received before the recession. The district supplements the instructional supply budget from the state with local funds; however, our local current expense funding is down by $1.7 million from its 2008-2009 level, the last year of full funding prior to the recession. We also use our federal Title I budget to supplement high poverty schools. Several other factors impact instructional supplies. First, the cost of supplies continues to increase, so the shrinking budgets are spent on higher priced materials. Another factor that has impacted supply budgets is the fact that I-SS has seen an increase in the number of children that are living below the poverty level, from 32% to 43%. Many of these families have difficulty purchasing school supplies for their children. Proactively, I-SS has worked with community-based partners to sponsor school supply donations. Examples include WSOC’s School Tools campaign, our local United Way’s Stuff the Bus campaign, and our YMCA’s book bag program. Our school PTOs do an outstanding job of supplementing supply budgets. Some of the high poverty schools have greater difficulty raising private funds. I-SS is fortunate to have over a hundred faith-based partners. Many of these churches and the NAACP sponsor back-to-school rallies, which includes the distribution of school supplies. Another generous supporter of I-SS is Classroom Central, a community non-profit agency based in Charlotte that collected school supplies for students in Iredell County.
This question is about professional development (training). Colleges do teach teachers how to teach. The same can be said that colleges teach doctors how to practice medicine and the army teaches soldiers how to be soldiers. When one graduates from medical school or completes boot camp, the training doesn’t stop there. Most of us understand that professional people have to be lifelong learners and constantly developing higher skill sets. In I-SS, we use Instructional Facilitators (IFs) to provide onsite training and staff development in our schools. I-SS was one of the first systems in the state to deploy this model. Many other school systems, particularly those with high levels of student performance, now use this model. We have found that the IF model is a much more cost efficient method to provide training, as opposed to, hiring outside trainers or sending staff members outside the county or the state for training. In NC, teachers are required to have professional development in order to renew their license. Our IFs are also available to model best practices, teach demonstration lessons, and help teachers with curriculum, materials, lesson planning, and data analysis. This year, NC will deploy an entirely new and more rigorous common core curriculum. Teachers will need intense training on this new curriculum. In I-SS, our IFs will be the primary source available to assist teachers with these changes in curriculum. IFs are also available to help any team at the school evaluate their performance and put processes in place to improve performance. They are free to work with bus drivers, custodial staff members, cafeteria staff, etc. to evaluate data relevant to their performance in their area and develop steps to improve their performance. In the end, students receive higher levels of support services and better instruction in our classrooms.Why are the reasons for employee disciplinary action not divulged to the public?
In North Carolina, school officials may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor for divulging information from the personnel records of employees.
Each of our traditional schools has one media coordinator. These positions are provided by the state of NC and are included in our annual position allotment. These salaries are set by the state. I-SS has no local discretion. Media coordinators used to be called librarians. Their primary responsibility is to operate the school library. The minimum requirement for a school librarian is a master’s degree, which improves their rate of pay. In NC, they also can obtain National Board Certification, which increases their state rate of pay by 12%. Librarians support literacy in our schools by reinforcing reading skills, teaching children how to use the library, how to conduct research, and many other skills that enrich students’ lives. They also work extensively with electronic media and help students learn 21st century skills in the area of technology. The role of the librarian will be more important this year, as NC implements the Common Core curriculum. This school year, across the district, media coordinators will be called upon by teachers to help provide materials and resources to integrate with the new common core curriculum. They will also be asked to help teachers enrich their lessons with critical thinking and problem solving skills, driven largely by literacy and technology. I-SS has cut five full-time media coordinator (librarian) positions in the last three years due to budget cuts. Each of our traditional high schools previously had two media coordinators – one state funded and one locally funded. The district cut the locally funded position in response to a decline in local funding. In most of our schools, librarians take on extra duties, such as, coordinating Battle of the Books, Spelling Bees, and helping teachers with project based learning, such as, science fairs. In some schools, they also help with testing, maintaining fixed asset reports, providing tutorials, and with supervision of students. I-SS considers media coordinators to be an essential position at each school.
Iredell-Statesville Schools does not employ, nor has it ever employed, a fulltime fire marshal for the purpose of duplicating a job performed by another agency. That is why we have the county fire marshal, city fire marshal and state insurance inspector. Our schools are located in two fire marshal districts (Statesville and Iredell County).
Why does the district employ social workers when the county employs social workers who are trained in truancy?
I-SS has no wasted positions, however, we employ three social workers at an annual cost of $182,300. These employees serve the entire school system of 21,400 students. They spend the majority of their time in the elementary schools. One of our social workers is the McKinney-Vento liaison. McKinney-Vento is a federal law, which requires school districts to provide services to students of homeless parents. Social workers do spend a lot of time on truancy concerns. NC has a compulsory school attendance law and the district is charged with enforcing that law. I-SS has done an admirable job with student attendance. Last year, attendance was 97.5%, which ranked I-SS 11th best in the state. In conversations that the district has had with the Department of Social Services, truancy enforcement is beyond the scope of work that they perform. DSS deals with serious social issues of neglect, abuse, lack of income, housing, etc. Our social workers refer many cases that come to our attention in our schools to the Department of Social Services. They also serve as a liaison with DSS and other community based resources to help improve the quality of lives for our most needy students. In the last three years, I-SS has seen the number of children living below the poverty level increase from 32% to 43%, which has greatly increased the workload of our three remaining social workers.