In face of COVID-19, employee retention eyed

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 5/14/20

Students are expected to return when Bradley County Schools resumes classes, but what about the employees? The retention of school system employees was part of the discussion during Monday’s Bradley County Commission’s Education Committee meeting.

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In face of COVID-19, employee retention eyed

Posted

Students are expected to return when Bradley County Schools resumes classes, but what about the employees?

The retention of school-system employees was part of the discussion during a Bradley County Commission Education Committee gathering earlier this week. The committee met in-person in the County Commission Courtroom at the courthouse, where social-distancing guidelines were observed.

Commissioner Milan Blake asked about retention in the school system; he said employee retention is a priority for county government, as evidenced by the measures taken in the current budget to increase pay for several categories of employees, and to increase the number of employees.

Bradley County Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said the school system loses employees mainly through retirement and when they move out of state.

“We don’t have a lot of attrition through people wanting to move out of Bradley County,” she said.

Cash said the school system hires 20-to-40 new employees per year. She credited competitive salaries and benefits for the ability to “be choosy” with new hires.

She also acknowledged challenges to the school system as a result of COVID-19, even in retaining employees while schools are closed except for food preparation.

“Our goal was to try to keep all our employees,” Cash said.

Blake asked if there have been any savings due to the schools being closed.

Cash said there was a savings of approximately $20,000 in the schools’ electricity bills in March.

Susan Willcutt, finance director for the school system, said she anticipates “a huge savings” in the April billing.

Cash said the school facilities are cleaned and sanitized, and are “ready for August.” She noted additional cleaning and sanitizing will take place, especially as athletic facilities will see use beginning on May 23.

“Then we’ll have to double-down on the cleaning,” she said.

Cash also told the committee the anticipation is that schools will reopen in August for the 2020-21 school year.

Blake thanked Cash and the school board “for picking up the challenge and feeding a lot of kids during this time.” He also thanked Cleveland City Schools for doing the same for its students.

“I very much appreciate the effort," he said.

Commissioner Bill Winters said he has a granddaughter in the fifth grade at Black Fox Elementary School and a granddaughter who is a senior at Walker Valley High School. He said school system staffers have been great to reach out to students through parades and other activities.

“They’ve gone above and beyond,” Winters said. “It’s personal to all of us who have kids in the schools … there’s a lot of pain, a lot of emotion, but also a lot of joy.”

Education Committee Chairman Thomas Crye agreed that the school meal program has had “unbelievable” impact for youngsters in the community.

Cash said more than 200,000 meals have been served since March.

In other business, the committee reviewed Bradley County Schools’ five-year plan, which includes:

• Finishing classroom expansion projects at Black Fox and North Lee Elementary schools;

• Finishing the Partnerships in Industry and Education (PIE) Center;

• Building a science and math wing for Bradley Central High School;

• Updating athletic facilities; and

• Planning a new elementary school on the south side of the county.

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