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City schools approve 2014-15 budget

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Martinsville School Board on Monday adopted a fiscal 2014-15 budget that requests a local appropriation of $6,936,601 for operating funds, an increase over the current fiscal year of $576,070, or 9 percent.

In addition, the budget requests $160,000 for capital improvements to replace a regular school bus and a special education school bus. Superintendent Pam Heath said she wants the school division to get on a 15-year bus replacement cycle.

In all, under the budget, the general fund totals $21,857,801. That includes the local appropriation request of $6,936,601, anticipated state revenue of $14.8 million, and other revenues.

Heath has said the budget is based on former governor Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget and could change depending on the final state budget. She said last month that Martinsville City Schools would get $12,162 more under the House version of the budget and $93,452 more under the Senate version of the budget than under McDonnell’s proposal.

The budget calls for adding a total of 11 personnel: eight teachers and three paraprofessionals. Seven of those positions are because of state mandates, Heath said. One of those seven positions is an elementary teacher needed because of “student cohort movement” (or movement of students from one grade level to another). The other positions include three special education teachers and three special education paraprofessionals needed because of special education caseloads, Heath has said.

The budget calls for reinstating the JROTC program at an estimated annual cost of $150,000, with one teacher during the first year, officials have said.

The budget calls for implementing the Teachers for Tomorrow program, which would require one teacher. It is a “grow your own” teacher recruitment model. It was recommended by the school division’s Minority Recruitment Task Force, Heath has said.

The budget calls for implementing an elementary transitional day program, with one teacher. The program would serve elementary students with significant challenges, such as behavioral issues, but who do not necessarily need to be classified as special education students, Heath has said.

The budget also would add a technology support technician because of increased demands on the current technology staff, which Heath said is “very small.”

The budget absorbs $112,329 in special education federal funds lost due to budget sequestration. More than $30,000 of that is made up by reducing non-personnel expenses. The remaining approximately $79,000 is part of the $576,070 in additional local operating funds being requested, Heath has said.

Another reason for the proposed increase in local operating funds is the costs associated with implementation of the Affordable Care Act and because additional employees are eligible for enrollment, Heath said.

No one spoke at a public hearing on the budget Monday night during the school board’s meeting.

The budget now will go to Martinsville City Council. City council and the school board will have a work session at 6 p.m. Thursday at Martinsville Municipal Building.

In other business at the meeting, Heath gave a report about a presentation she made at the Virginia Board of Education meeting March 27, making a case for why the school division should qualify to open before Labor Day due to an innovative program, the Martinsville-Henry County STEM Pipeline Initiative.

The application talks about the city schools’ collaborative efforts to turn around the economy through education, working with the county schools, the Harvest Foundation, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., Patrick Henry Community College, New College Institute, the Governor’s School, Virginia State University and James Madison University.

To meet the goals of the STEM Pipeline Initiative program, MCPS has taken a three-pronged approach: Continue programming that has been in place (such as dual enrollment and the National Science, Engineering, Math and Aerospace Academy, or SEMAA); expansion of STEM-H programming (dual enrollment, career and technical education and SEMAA); and development of innovative programming (the Academy of Engineering and Technology, or AET; FIRST Robotics; internships), the application says.

A key aspect of the program is aligning the calendars of the public schools with their partner colleges and universities. That cannot be done if the public schools open after Labor Day, officials have said.

Heath said state school board members were impressed with the school division’s application but said it is a very high bar to meet the requirements for a waiver on the basis of innovative program. The state school board will make a decision at its meeting this month.

Heath said that even if the state board denies the application, she is trying to advocate for getting the Labor Day law changed because it does not benefit parts of the state such as this area. She said the law was passed to help the tourist industry.

In other business, the school board:

• Approved resolutions naming the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and Henry County to the Virginia School Boards Association Business Honor Roll.

• Approved applying for an estimated $58,798 in federal Perkins funds for career and technical education, specifically for such things as students attending conferences, equipment and software for new courses, updating a computer lab and professional development.

• Accepted the retirement resignation of Dorothy McGhee, Martinsville High School cafeteria worker.


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