But the top priority pitched by the school board is a 3 percent raise for teachers and staff. A third and more distant need is to relocate the administrative offices into a single location.
Director of Schools Dr. Rick Denning repeated several times the educators were not fussing or trying to beat up on Council members. He said teachers have not had a pay raise in three years and it is beginning to be a morale issue.
He asked the Council to consider a pay raise when it meets Nov. 1 for its annual fall retreat. He said at one time, the city had trouble competing with Georgia school systems. Now, he said, the Cleveland City Schools system has fallen behind other comparable districts in Tennessee.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said it was “a little embarrassing our teachers are paid so little for what they do.”
Councilman George Poe asked how the pay disparity was created.
Denning explained that when he interviewed for the job 17 years ago, education facilities were an issue.
“We put a lot of money in our schools at the expense of salaries,” Dr. Denning said.
Board member Dawn Robinson said the board has put a lot of money into schools instead of sending students out into the streets selling candy to raise money for copy paper.
“We give teachers what they need to teach,” she said.
The cost of a pay raise is estimated to be $260,000 to $270,000 per each percent. Each percent would add three cents to the property tax per $100 of assessed value.
The second priority is the need for an elementary school to keep up with the influx of students expected from families moving into the area for jobs at Volkswagen, Wacker Chemie and Whirlpool.
Rowland said the science wing should have been built two years ago to prepare for the influx.
The school board asked the Council’s permission to look for about 10 to 15 acres of land for a new elementary school and possibly enter into a six-month option since there is very little land remaining within the city limits.
Denning said Mayfield Elementary had a September enrollment of 479 students and special classrooms for arts and music are already used for classrooms. This year, the school system experienced its largest student population growth by enrolling 126 new elementary students.
Councilman Richard Banks suggested school board members prepare a five-year business plan so the city would know what to expect.