At its Feb. 7 meeting, the Newton County School System (NCSS) Board of Education (BOE) debated and then approved a resolution aimed at raising the salary paid to BOE members.
It was resolved to ask area legislators to “support and submit local legislation at the 2017 General Assembly to increase Board remuneration from $600 per month to $1,000 per month.” Legislative approval is needed before the salary can be increased. If approved, salaries would not be increased until July 2017.
The salary paid to BOE members has been $600 per month for the past 26 years. BOE members last got a pay raise in 1991. However, according to information provided by Almond Turner, BOE chair, there has been significant change in the size and complexity of the NCSS since 1991. Back then, NCSS served 8,004 students and had 1,067 employees; today there are 19,737 students and 2,863 employees. In 1994, NCSS included 13 schools; today there are 24 schools. In 2001, the total NCSS budget was $66 million; today it is nearly $182 million.
The new salary level was arrived at as follows: In 1991 the salary was raised from $400 per month or 60 cents per student per year to $600 per month or 90 cents per student per year. Today, because salaries have remained unchanged while enrollment has grown, BOE members receive 36 cents per student per year. The proposed new salary level of $1,000 per month would return the BOE members to 60 cents per student per year which was the rate prior to the salary increase in 1991.
As pointed out by Turner and Shakila Henderson-Baker, BOE member representing district 3, the salaries paid to BOE members are significantly less than the salaries received by Newton County’s board of commissioners, the only other county-wide elected board. In response to an open records request, Jackie Smith, county clerk, reported that this year’s “new commissioners came on board with a base salary of $19,804.63.”
Comparison of the NCSS BOE’s current or proposed salary level with other Georgia school districts is problematic because districts vary in size and each has its own history, approach and policies for setting board members’ salaries. A review of Open Georgia (open.georgia.gov) records shows 2015-2016 salaries ranging from $0 in a few districts to $23,400 in the district paying the highest salaries.
One thing that was clearly on the mind of BOE members was the need to take action now so as to ensure that the position of board member remains attractive to committed and capable individuals interested in becoming a candidate to serve on the BOE. The approved resolution stated, “We all knew the salary before we ran for the position, but at some point, we have to address the compensation for the sake of future board members and to guarantee quality service to the school system.”
Also at its meeting, the BOE gave special recognition to two sets of students who were winners at two Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) 2017 regional competitions held in January. First to be recognized were the grade sixth through eight students who were winners at the Griffin RESA Literacy Days Competition.
Middle and high school students who were first place winners at the Griffin RESA Regional Science & Engineering Fair were then recognized.
“This year every single NCSS competitor brought home a first, second or third place award from the regional science fair,” Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent, said. “In fact, we had so many award winners that it will take us three school board meetings to recognize all of them. And that’s a great problem to have.”
Amie Cumming, NCSS coordinator of student services, outlined a plan she and colleagues are working on for a new alternative education program to better serve dropouts and at-risk students. Cumming and her fellow planners envision a facility, staff and program that costs the District the same or less than the Ombudsman Alternative Education Program (currently $1.2 million per year), but delivers more academic opportunities, services, flexibility, and resources. The planned program, referred to as the “NCSS Academy,” is not yet a proposal ready for BOE action, but Cumming and Craig Lockhart, deputy superintendent, indicated such a proposal will be forthcoming.
The BOE acted to award annual renewable contracts for diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline to Petroleum Traders Corporation, Fort Wayne, Indiana and for grounds and athletic fields care and maintenance to Ruppert Landscape, Lilburn. The estimated contract values are $600,000 and $398,688 respectively. The BOE also acted to surplus and dispose of unneeded equipment and property. Finally, it approved the hiring of one teacher, four paraprofessionals and four staff members as well as two transfers, four retirements, 10 resignations and one termination.