At a work session Tuesday, board members prioritized $631,000 worth of requests to send to the City Council as it deliberates the city’s budget over the coming weeks.
Members of the City Council have made it clear they won’t be writing blank checks to the Board of Education. Instead, they have called for the Board of Education to submit funding requests for individual items.
Last month, Councilman David Reddick proposed a measure that set aside for public education a quarter of the revenue from the one-cent sales tax increase the council passed last year. That allocation would have amounted to about $1 million annually. The other four council members voted it down, leading to a parade of criticism from concerned parents and community members. The council members insisted they support the city’s schools, but they want to fund innovative projects that will improve the school system.
The school board’s wish list includes major requests for career technology and academic programs as well as several stand-alone requests.
First on the board’s list was more than $150,000 to convert a part-time career technology director into a full-time position and maintain two instructors — cosmetology and welding — whose positions the city already funds.
“Career Tech is becoming immense, and it’s becoming more immense, with the amount of monitoring and paperwork they have to do,” Frazier told board members, encouraging the switch to a full-time director. Career technology is a significant part of the state’s Plan 2020, which emphasizes college- and career-ready graduates.
The biggest portion of the wish list is the $376,000 academic package, which provides new services to students at all levels. A major component is $150,000 to create a re-entry program that will serve students at risk of not completing high school and for members of the community who have quit high school and want to return.
Superintendent Joan Frazier said the program would take place outside of the traditional school hours and be individualized to the needs of different people.
“No two cases are alike,” she said. “Everybody has their own story for why they want to quit high school or why they did quit high school, so you have to go back to where they left off and match what you need to do to their circumstances.”
In addition to the re-entry program, the package includes $46,000 to partner with the YMCA for an after-school program and $120,000 for assessment teachers each at the high school and middle school. These two teachers will focus on ACT preparation, including pre-ACT tests required in middle and early high school. Board member C.K. Huguley pushed to get a second assessment teacher for the middle school, noting the importance of academic support for struggling students and a focus on the ACT and its preliminary tests, mandated assessments under the new state accountability system.
In addition, a music teacher will be added at the elementary level, something Board President Donna Ross pushed for as a way to add joy and engagement to students’ educational experience.
“Music has been associated with better reading scores and achievement and things like that,” she said.
The board also tacked on several stand-alone requests:
• $70,000 for an additional assistant principal that would either serve full-time at the high school or be split between the middle and high schools
• $30,000 for a part-time grant writer
• $2,000 to support the Top 100 Academic program
• $1,000 to support the Cobb Elementary School choir.
Ross said the grant-writing position could be a good investment for the school system.
“I see a half-time grant writer at $30,000, there’s a possibility of getting millions of dollars in grants if we have somebody devoted to that service,” she said. “There are so many grants passing us by because we have nobody assigned to do it.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.