Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Aiken County Board of Education went through a preliminary 2014-15 budget on Tuesday – a document that currently will add no taxes to general operations and also to the debt services budget, which provides funds for new construction and cyclical maintenance.
The Board members dedicated most of the discussion to “Level I” – the highest-ranking priority proposals chosen among dozens more by School District administrators.
The cost would run about $1.9 million – an expenditure that could be offset through some 2014-15 staff funding, said District Comptroller Tray Traxler.
For now at least, the trustees did approve two of those items – a new human resources staffer and the introduction of a formal Freshman Academy at Aiken High School. Hiring the staff member and a new teacher and counselor for the high school would require immediate advertising, District officials said.
Levi Green, the Board’s vice chairman, gave “one last pitch,” he said, asking the others to include new exploratory classes at four rural middle schools. Other middle schools have those opportunities, “and we have real needs for classes that can impact students,” Green said. The Board members rejected that amendment.
Board member Ray Fleming said he can sympathize with Green’s concerns.
“We just need to wipe out (all the Level I needs),” Fleming said. “If we start cherry-picking, we’ll get tied up in our shoes.”
The other cited priorities include a “step increase” in salary and fringe expenses for non-teachers. Another would add a science curriculum specialist.
The District would revise a formula for middle and high school assistant principal allocations at a cost of $175,000. Wagener-Salley and Ridge Spring-Monetta High Schools would benefit. Aiken High, South Aiken High and North Augusta High would get a constant 3.5 allocation for assistant principal – one of the assistants in each school also working part-time in a teaching position. Four middle schools have 1.5 assistant principal positions, said Traxler. Three of them have 300 students less than Kennedy Middle School, which has 950 students and the same ratio.
In other business:
• Academic officer Joy Shealy provided an update on a project in which the Aiken County Career and Technology Center could administer a new program for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, also known as STEM. The center would house a middle school coordinator as part of efforts to install formal STEM activities within each school.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.