Budget shortfall impacts teachers
by DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Apr 15, 2014 | 1196 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

A projected 2 percent raise for Cleveland City Schools employees will not be available this year as it was not a part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget passed by legislators Monday.

Cleveland City Schools financial officer Brenda Carson announced the changes at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting Monday night.

She said state leaders have reported the sales tax and Hall state income tax collections are lower than initially projected. As such, the 2 percent increase expected for teachers was not included in the state budget.

Local funds are also less than planned. Carson explained the Bradley County property tax receipts are lower than they were the same time last year. Sales tax collections are also lower than anticipated. These changes led to a 10 percent cut in allocated funds to each of the schools and supervisors.

“When I moved those amended totals for the [2014-15] budget, then that put our revenue picture in even worse shape,” Carson said after the meeting. “So then we had to do the 10 percent cuts to school allocations to get the new budget balanced.”

Added Carson, “It is going to tighten [the schools’] belts certainly for next year. They are going to have to be more careful at looking at every purchase. One year, hopefully, it will not be that critical.”

She said she hopes this is only a one-time adjustment.

Dr. Martin Ringstaff, Cleveland City Schools director, told the school board he hopes the budget will turn around in the future.

“We’ve had a lot of painful discussions and interesting brainstorming issues on how to get this to where it balances,” he said. “The raise, obviously, was not there. We right now have a step-increase in for teachers, which is good. They will see the step-increase raise, but no percent across-the-board raise.”

In another development, architect Brian Templeton of the Upland Design Group announced the drawings for the new Cleveland High gymnasium have been completed. He reported the phase one portion of the project is ready for bid. The bids will open May 1. Contractors interested in the project will attend a mandatory meeting to visit the facility grounds.

According to Templeton, the project has received interest from contractors. He said he appreciates all of the effort Energy Education Specialist Paul Ramsey and director of maintenance and transportation Hal Taylor have placed on the project. He also thanked Cleveland Utilities for its work.

Templeton explained he will give a more thorough update at next week’s site committee meeting.

The board unanimously approved a motion to pay Upland Design Group $36,607 for work completed on the new elementary school project.

Supervisor of Technology Andrew Phillips presented the digital textbook committee’s recommendation for the 2014-15 school year. The plan would only affect social studies classes for grades 6-12.

“What I want to talk about today is the conversion from traditional, standard textbooks to digital content,” Phillips said. “Basically, this is a reallocation of money. We are not asking for new money. This is a reallocation of textbook, technology and professional development money.”

According to a report provided by Phillips, textbook funds would be used to “provide digital content, software subscriptions and any other resources deemed necessary by the teachers.” Technology funds would provide the networking equipment, wireless access points, devices and carts. Money from the Professional Development fund would provide training, stipends for technology leaders and media specialists. Phillips said a technology integration consultant could also be paid for out of the PD funds.

Teachers would be encouraged to look online for resources from websites like Discovery Streaming, PBS, netTrekker and BrainPop. A subscription to another online resource would be paid for from the textbook funds.

Phillips proposed using a mixture of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and technology available at the schools, like laptop carts and computer labs.

Teachers who feel uncomfortable without a textbook could utilize a classroom set of older textbooks.

Phillips explained in his report going to electronic resources supports the mission of the Cleveland City Schools to prepare students for college and career.

“Part of this preparation is exposing students to technology as much as possible,” Phillips said. “Using technology effectively is a requirement in almost every job field. Students are expected to turn in assignments online, and collaborate with peers in higher education.

“By giving them valuable experience in middle and high school, we can help their chances of being successful after they graduate from Cleveland City Schools.”

Board members Dr. Murl Dirksen, Dawn Robinson and Steve Morgan questioned the recommendation from all sides. Such questions included the ability of online resources to fully equip students with the information they need to pass the yearly tests, how the teachers will be held accountable for using the proper information and whether a new set of textbooks could be purchased for every level.

Ringstaff assured the board the project is a pilot program. He said the issues raised by board members will be considered and addressed as the project continues.