$17.2M budget proposal heads to supervisors

Charlie Koenig - Posted on Feb 20, 2019 - 02:11 PM

Photo: In honor of February as Black History Month, Mathews County School Board member Melissa Mason, center, presented books to each of the principals of the division’s three schools for their school libraries. She gave books to Drew Greve, Alexis Foster and Laurel Byrd, standing from left, relating to black history and culture, including versions of the book “Hidden Figures” for both the middle- and high-school levels. Mason dedicated the books to important people in her life, including her principal at Lee-Jackson, Frances Jackson, her mother Earlise Foster and the 1956 graduating class of Thomas Hunter School, and educators Beatrice Bobo, Martha Thomas and Sallie Foster, the last two being her cousins. Photo by Charlie Koenig

In honor of February as Black History Month, Mathews County School Board member Melissa Mason, center, presented books to each of the principals of the division’s three schools for their school libraries. She gave books to Drew Greve, Alexis Foster and Laurel Byrd, standing from left, relating to black history and culture, including versions of the book “Hidden Figures” for both the middle- and high-school levels. Mason dedicated the books to important people in her life, including her principal at Lee-Jackson, Frances Jackson, her mother Earlise Foster and the 1956 graduating class of Thomas Hunter School, and educators Beatrice Bobo, Martha Thomas and Sallie Foster, the last two being her cousins. Photo by Charlie Koenig

By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Mathews School Board adopted its proposed $17.2 million budget Tuesday night, a budget that includes a 13 percent raise for its teachers and other division employees.

The budget now heads to the county board of supervisors for its consideration. The county board has a budget work session scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12. A hearing on the county budget and its accompanying tax rates will be held on April 15.

While there was unanimity in the final vote Tuesday night, the school board meeting in the Mathews High School media center began with some question as to whether it should ask for the full 13 percent in the 2019-2020 budget.

As the board set about approving its Jan. 29 meeting minutes, school board member Jeanice Sadler asked that her comments be included where she stated that a 5-6 percent salary increase was “more reasonable” this time around and that, with a pair of bonds to be paid off in the coming year, more funds would be freed up in the following year for another raise.

Sadler’s comments inspired several people to speak up during the public comment period. Kathy Perdue of Port Haywood said that the county is at a critical juncture and if the full amount is not pursued, “we risk losing teachers and not attracting” new ones.

“I know it’s a bold salary increase,” teacher Amy Bohannon Stewart said, but she too is concerned that without such an increase, good teachers will leave and opportunities will continue to dwindle for her daughter and other Mathews children. “I almost feel like an irresponsible parent” for staying put instead of taking herself and her child to another division with greater opportunities, she said.

Later in the meeting, when it came time to adopt the proposed budget, there was no discussion and no dissent. The budget calls for the county to chip in $8.8 million, a roughly $1.6 million increase over its current contribution.

Equity policy

In other news, the school board adopted its equity policy, which seeks to ensure equitable and fair educational opportunities for all students by allocating resources fairly and equitably. The policy passed by a 4-1 vote, with vice chairman Melissa Mason voting against the measure.

Following the meeting, she explained that she cast her vote because of the removal of one of the goals, which stated that “All schools that exceed physical capacity (or geography) to meet minimum enrollments will be evaluated for expansion.” While conceding that it was a minor point, she said that the removal of that goal precluded the possibility of the need for future growth. Otherwise, she said, she fully supported the equity policy.

The school board also approved a $15,431 bill for replacement of a bus engine and $23,788 for replacement of water lines at Thomas Hunter Middle School, asking that supervisors provide funding for the two capital needs.

Personnel

Following a closed session Tuesday night, the school board approved the retirement of Lee-Jackson Elementary special education teacher Kristina Long for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as Thomas Hunter custodian Norma Jean Soles and cafeteria worker Darlene Shaw. The board approved the retirement of bus driver Jon Noble for the current school year, and the resignation of MHS English teacher Taylor Jacobs for 2019-2020. Jillian Ashberry was appointed a bus driver and Waverly Hudgins a part-time after-school YMCA bus driver for 2018-2019.

Three paid coaching appointments and two volunteer appointments were approved Tuesday. J.J. Ashberry was named the varsity softball coach. Kori Fielding was named the MHS Sailing Club sponsor. And Sylvia Monroe was appointed varsity and junior varsity girls’ basketball cheer coach. Katelyn James (crew) and Zackary Jarosz (JV baseball) received volunteer coaching appointments.

One student disciplinary matter was also approved Tuesday night, with a student placed in the Middle Peninsula Regional Alternative Program for a period not to exceed 45 school days.

The school board will hold its next quarterly town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 in the MHS media center. Mason will moderate the discussion, with the community invited to attend and voice any concerns.