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Liberty school employees to get raises
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All Liberty County School System employees will receive a 3 percent salary raise in the 2016-17 school year after the Board of Education approved the move Tuesday.

Bradwell Institute’s switch from a block schedule (four classes a day, eight a year for students) to a traditional schedule (seven classes a day all year) will cause the school to lose five teaching positions, according to school system Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese.

And board members voted down a new administrative position that Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee said the district is required to have by the Georgia Department of Education because of Liberty County’s status as a charter system. Other job positions were tabled until Lee receives more information from the state and board members.

Salary raise

Reese said Lee recommended a 3 percent raise for classified and certified staff, along with all eligible employees moving up a step on the salary scale.

During his State of the State address in January, Gov. Nathan Deal proposed appropriating $300 million for kindergarten through 12th-grade school systems to give teachers statewide a 3 percent pay raise. Just before the 2016 legislative session ended Thursday, the General Assembly sent Deal a budget including that raise.

Schedule change

Reese presented a summary of the general fund that is proposed to be included in the 2016-17 budget. Reese discussed areas that the district will save money.

“The change in the block scheduling with Bradwell to traditional scheduling, we’ve identified that we could potentially save approximately five teaching slots,” he said.  

Having repairs and maintenance done in-house within the transportation and operations departments, and the loss of those five teaching positions will create savings estimated of $400,000. Reese said those savings could be redirected to new programs.

New position rejected

The proposed general fund budget included several new positions for divisions at the central office, which included an executive director for principal support and a teacher/leader over STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math initiative).

Board Chairwoman Lily Baker said some board members wanted to vote on each position one by one, not as a whole. The first position was listed on Reese’s slide-show presentation as “Executive Director (STEAM).” Lee said the title should actually be “Executive Director for Charter Innovations” because that person would work with STEAM and school improvements, according to requirements outlined in the system’s charter.

BoE member Verdell Jones said she is not against the position but wanted to make sure that the job description is defined before approving the position.

“We don’t want to spend money and then figure out the positon as we go along,” she said. The salary for the position was listed as $105,000, financed through charter funds.  

Baker then called for a recess for a discussion on the roles and responsibilities of board members behind closed doors. After about 15 minutes later, the board returned. Board member Marcus Scott IV made a motion to vote on the positions collectively, instead of one by one. The motion failed for lack of support.

The executive director for charter innovations position was disapproved by a 4-2 vote, with Jones abstaining.

Immediately, Lee said, “I would like to take the opportunity to withdraw all requests for these positions and table the matter until the board can make a more informed decision.”

She said she felt it was better to table the requests instead of each position possibly getting voted down by the board.

“I have to talk with the state about this because you’re supposed to have someone over charter finances and innovations in the district. That’s not something I’m doing, that’s something the state wants to happen, and you voted it down,” Lee said.

She added that board members could share their ideas for all those positions.  

“I’ve had no questions about that position,” Lee said. “I’ve had no comments about that position and I find it most disconcerting that we get to an open meeting and they vote down things that they have not discussed.”  

Scott then pointed out to Lee that he shared a concern with her, and Lee acknowledged it.

Board members then voted to table considering the new job positions.

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