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City school budget approved

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Martinsville School Board on Monday night unanimously approved on second reading the school division’s $21,318,895 general fund budget for fiscal year 2013-14.

That includes a request for a local appropriation of $6,360,531, an increase over the current fiscal year of $660,531. The request is less than was appropriated in 2009 and several years before that, schools Superintendent Pam Heath said.

The budget includes funds to restore six teaching positions. It includes funds to give employees 4 percent salary increases to help offset mandated retirement contributions and 1 percent salary increases to help offset a 12.7 percent increase in health insurance rates. It also gives all employees a 2 percent salary increase that both offsets the 2 percent payroll tax increase that went into effect Jan. 1 and takes advantage of the state’s offer to pay a portion of a 2 percent salary increase for certain employees.

Attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers is a critical challenge for the school division, particularly in areas of math, science, technology and foreign language, Heath said.

Martinsville City Public Schools (MCPS) salaries and benefits are not competitive, Heath said. State rankings show for teachers with bachelor’s degrees, Martinsville’s salaries dropped from 2012 to 2013: from 68th to 86th with no experience, from 70th to 90th with five years of experience, from 97th to 111th with 10 years of experience, from 97th to 115th with 15 years of experience, from 109th to 125th with 20 years of experience, from 118th to 127th with 25 years of experience and from 70th to 99th with 30 years of experience. Those rankings are among 132 school divisions.

“Research has shown teacher quality is the single most influential factor in student achievement,” Heath said. “It takes two years for students with ineffective teachers to regain the resulting loss in achievement. If a student has an ineffective teacher for two years in a row, he/she is unlikely to ever catch up.”

The budget also has a focus on instructional programming to ensure that all students are college and career ready, including opportunities such as Advanced Placement courses, Governor’s School and dual enrollment with a community college.

The budget includes no request for capital improvements.

Four people spoke Monday night during a public hearing on the budget. Parents Victor Correa and Derick Soper praised the job Clearview Early Learning Center is doing. Marisa Womack talked about the respect she has for teachers, including the long hours they work and their willingness to spend their own money to help meet classroom needs. She has a child at Albert Harris Elementary, is the school’s PTO president and is unit director of the Boys and Girls club program at the school.

“Please support Ms. Heath’s budget proposal,” parent Kennedy Williams of Axton said. Though the family lives in the county, his daughter is enrolled in Martinsville Middle School because of advanced learning opportunities, he said.

The budget now will be considered by Martinsville City Council.

In other business, the school board recognized Darius Simington, the Pre-College Initiative Male Student of the Year for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). The award is for a high school senior who has shown promise in science, math or engineering, according to the NSBE website.

Simington, 18 and a senior at Martinsville High School, receives a $4,000 scholarship for winning the national award, he said during the meeting and in an interview. He has been accepted at Old Dominion University and Virginia State University and is waiting to hear from George Mason University, his first choice. He plans to major in computer science.

He has a 3.7 grade point average. He was captain of the varsity football team and was a defensive lineman. He is a member of CHILL and the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Program. He is active at Fayette Street Christian Church, he said.

Simington was recognized recently at the national convention in Indianapolis.

“We’re very proud of you. It’s quite an honor,” Heath told Simington during the school board meeting.

Also winning a national award was the Martinsville and Henry County NSBE Jr. Chapter, which was honored as the Pre-College Initiative Program of the Year.

The award is for an institution or program with demonstrated programmatic success in helping to prepare students for college math, science and/or engineering education, according to the NSBE website.

Helen Howell is the founder and director of the chapter.

In other business Monday, the school board:

• Recognized school-level teachers of the year: Clearview Early Learning Center — Amy Clemons, who teaches 4-year-olds; Albert Harris Elementary — Alisha Britton, who teaches special education; Patrick Henry Elementary — Roxanne Collins; Martinsville Middle School — Donna Lowery, who teaches seventh-grade literature; and Martinsville High School — Devon Wall, who teaches social studies. The division teacher of the year will be announced at the employee recognition banquet April 30.

• Recognized employees of the following schools/departments who received Employee Campaign Awards from the United Way for increasing their donations by 20 percent or more from last year’s campaign: Martinsville Middle School, Martinsville High School, Patrick Henry Elementary, Clearview Early Learning Center and the facilities department.

• Approved on first and final reading changes in a number of school board policies that were recommended by the Virginia School Boards Association and reflect current laws.

• Heard an update on renovations at Martinsville High School. Travis Clemons, the school division’s executive director of finance and development, said, among other things, that the renovation of the old science labs is about 95 percent complete and work is proceeding on other aspects of the project. He said the project is on time and on budget and not much has been spent on change orders.

• Heard a presentation by the Martinsville High School Robotics Team about how that program has gotten better and better every year. The team demonstrated a robot that shoots flying discs.


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