LUMBERTON — Members of the Public Schools of Robeson County school board were in a giving mood Tuesday.
The board voted to extend the Superintendent Johnny Hunt’s contract for an additional three years with a pay raise — retroactive to July 1 — and approved hiring back all of the teacher assistants who lost their jobs during the 2011-12 school year because of cuts in state funding.
Superintendent Johnny Hunt is currently in the final year of a three-year contract. In addition to extending his contract by three years, Tuesday’s action ives Hunt, who is currently making about $175,000 a year, an additional $10,000 each year of the extended contract.
Hunt said after the meeting that he is satisfied with the new contract.
“I’m looking forward to working with the board,” he said.
Michael Smith, the board’s chairman, said the contract had been discussed “thoroughly.” Along with bringing back the teacher assistants, the superintendent’s contract was the main topic discussed during a closed session Tuesday that lasted more than three hours.
“It’s a fair contract,” Smith said.
Board members Dwayne Smith, Randy Lawson and Steve Martin voted against the contract. Smith said after the meeting that the three opposing board members had argued for a two-year contract extension with no raise.
“This had nothing to do with his performance. We all think he is doing a good job,” Smith said. “But with the economy the way it is, the timing is bad. The timing is just not right to be giving a raise.”
Hunt made the recommendation, which was received warmly by board members, that all remaining teacher assistants who lost their jobs last year be given the opportunity to be rehired. Hunt said this would affect about 40 to 45 teachers, and would bring the district’s number of teacher assistants to about 400, the number of teacher assistants employed by the district before cuts were made.
At the superintendent’s recommendation, hours for teacher assistants will be restored from 6 to 7.5 hour per day. The hours had been cut during the past school year to save money.
According to Erica Setzer, the district’s chief finance officer, bringing back the teacher assistants is possible because of 30 additional teacher slots allotted by the state, a savings in Title I expenses, and the district’s required reversion of funds back to the state is $1 million less than the 2011-12 budget year.
Hunt warned, however, that there is no guarantee that the money will be available to keep all of the teacher assistants after this year.
“No one can predict what the state funding will be in the future,” he said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, board members also received a brief update on the results of the annual ABC reports for the local schools released by the state earlier this month.
According to Bobby Locklear, the LEA accountability director for the Public Schools of Robeson county, 29 of 41 local schools met or exceeded their academic growth expectations.
Locklear said that all of the districts high schools made high growth, with 18 schools exceeding their anticipated rate of growth. Also, for the second consecutive year, no district school was ranked by the state as a “low performing’ school, he said.
According to Locklear, Robeson County’s overall graduation rate for the past year was 82.6 percent , which is above the state of just above 80 percent.
“We did well,” Locklear said. “But of course, there is always room for us to do better.”
In other business, the board on Tuesday:
— Filled the last two principal positions for the coming school year. They are: Kendall Hamilton, Littlefield Middle School, and Hawhana Rising, Orrum Middle School.
Two assistant principals were also named. They are Tara Bullard, Piney Grove Elementary School, and Cindy Lewis, Red Springs High School.
— Heard a report from Amy Haigler, parent coordinator for the school district, concerning the success of the district’s third annual Public Schools of Robeson County Back to School Celebration. The even, held Aug. 2 at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Center, was attended by more than 15,000 students, parents, guardians, and others.
— Heard another request from Maxton resident James McEachin for the former Townsend Middle School gym be turned over to Maxton to be used as a youth recreation center. McEachin said the gym has been sitting unused for a year.
Maxton officials and residents have requested on several occasions that the old gym be handed over to the town. They say that school officials years ago promised to turn the facility, most recently used for storage, over to the town.
— Approved adding Speech Fundamentals as a seventh provider of speech services for county students.
Reach Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.