Schools to ask $17M increase in local funding

By Scott Bigelow - Staff writer

LUMBERTON — The Board of Education of the Public Schools of Robeson County approved Tuesday a request for a $17.28 million increase in local funding from the Robeson County Board of Commissioners for the 2018-19 school year, which would more than double the amount the system receives.

The increase includes $3.1 million for school safety, with $1.1 million of that to put resource officers in every school, and $2 million for additional equipment and training. The school board is asking to continue the 1 percent teacher supplement approved by the commissioners last year plus an additional 4 percent supplement increase.

Also among the requests is $2 million to pay for substitute teachers and custodians. The schools took that amount from its textbook account last year, but the state will not allow that fund transfer next year, said finance director Erica Setzer.

A request for $6.3 million is also included in the budget request, which is due to the commissioners by May 31. That amount is about what was floated by the commissioners to buy Angel Exchange for use of the central office.

The school board rejected the county’s offer to purchase Angel Exchange as a permanent central office. Most central office personnel have been housed in the COMtech building since Hurricane Matthew destroyed the former office.

The public schools received $12.375 million in local funding from the county for the 2017-18 school year. The Public Schools of Robeson County ranks next to last in local per-pupil spending at $525, about $1,000 less than the state average.

There will also be a request forthcoming for a voter referendum of $50 million to build new schools, although the exact amount was not specified, according to school board attorney Grady Hunt.

The bond request was approved at the April meeting of the board. The request to the commissioners was approved unanimously Tuesday without discussion.

“We will email our budget request to the county and be available for discussion,” Setzer said.

The state has allotted $800,000 for textbooks next year, which, Setzer said, will not buy books for one subject for one grade across the Public Schools of Robeson County.

There is a history of complaints about the lack of textbooks in Robeson classrooms, and it appears they will continue. There has also been lengthy discussions about whether North Carolina schools should invest in textbooks or digital texts.

“A discussion about textbooks or e-books is needed,” board member Loistine DeFreece said.

“The parents are crying out for textbooks,” said board member Peggy Wilkins Chavis.

The discussion will continue in a meeting of the Curriculum Committee.

The board approved a $3,000 teacher sign-on bonuses for certified teachers in the areas of science, math, English as a second language, exceptional children and school psychologists.

Elementary and middle schools will make up school missed Wednesday for the teacher’s rally in Raleigh on June 8. The high schools will graduate seniors on that day.

Any options to avoid adding a day to the school year were eliminated by snow days last winter.

The school board approved a four-day summer work week for administrative staff beginning on June 18 and ending on Aug. 2. Central office personnel will work from 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.

A move to add soccer at seven county middle schools was tabled. There would be a $14,000 one-time cost for equipment and $14,000 annually for coaching supplements.

According to county Athletic Director Jeff Fipps, a decision would need to be made by October.

The school board approved a $9,000 payment to Purnell Swett High School to cover losses incurred because the team played no home basketball games. A leak in the roof damaged the floor.

Harvey Godwin, owner of Two Hawks Employment Services, handed out $100 checks to 57 students who passed Work Keys career readiness tests. The students were from county high schools and the Early College at Robeson Community College.

The board held a ceremonial swearing-in of Shanita Wooten as superintendent. Months ago the board voted to hire her and drop the interim label she had held since last summer.

By Scott Bigelow

Staff writer