School board takes issue with SRO funding

by Peter J. Teagle - Posted on May 09, 2018 - 03:22 PM

A lengthy exchange over teacher compensation and lack of funding for School Resource Officers was the highlight of the May meeting of the Gloucester School Board.

During Tuesday night’s meeting in the T.C. Walker Education Center, school board member Robin Rice questioned superintendent Dr. Walter Clemons on the budget recently approved by county supervisors.

Citing information provided by county administrator Brent Fedors in his budget presentation, Rice took issue with what the supervisors termed “unfunded priorities.” These were, among other things, a lack of funding for new positions (including SROs) and a reduction in the proposed amount allotted for teacher compensation.

The increase in local funds was reduced in the school budget from $2.3 million to $1.86 million before being further reduced to $1.654 million in the final, approved county budget, according to Rice.

Rice said that the school board had recommended compensation totals increase to $3.2 million, which would have meant raises for teachers and support staff.

She took issue with the final total of $1.654 million, as it was basically half of what had been recommended by the school board.

Clemons and the school board were in agreement that a lack of funding for compensation makes it difficult to keep quality teachers. Clemons specifically mentioned the problem of becoming a “training ground” for other schools, essentially a district where new teachers gain experience before moving to higher paying counties.

“We want to not only attract people to Gloucester … but keep them here at the same time,” Clemons explained.

In addition, Rice brought up the issue of the School Resource Officers.

Gloucester High School currently has two SROs while each middle school has one. There are currently no security personnel on staff at any of Gloucester’s five elementary schools.

Clemons explained that while there had been a grant proposal being written that, if approved by the state and renewed each year, could have funded SROs at elementary schools for four years, the county administrator “was not in favor of the current grant application.”