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Editor, On the heels of our city council giving pay raises for the next elected officials, but then deciding they need to look at that decision again, our local school board is looking at funding and the budget for the next year. In one statement it was reported in the Coastal Courier that no one has been “pink slipped” in the school system and in the very same report, it was reported that paraprofessional positions will be eliminated.
As many of you know, my spouse is a school administrator. She has been a building level administrator for 17 years. I would not be aware of half of what our local school board members and central office staff are approving or requesting if I did not have her as a source of information. For example, I would not be aware of the fact that the school building level experience among the three assistant superintendents equals one year. I also would not know about the 49 percent jobs. These are part-time jobs that retired educators hold, allowing them to draw their full retirement and work for extra pay. I do agree that the 49 percent positions could be financially a good idea. Certified teachers working in a school building with struggling students is a good use of tax dollars. However, when you look at the full picture, you have to wonder if this indeed is the most beneficial way to spend money on helping struggling students. 49 percent positions work two and a half days of the week. The salaries average $30,000-$45,000 a year. A paraprofessional works five days a week. In addition to helping the teacher by working with struggling students, they also help with grading papers and at duty time to assure that students are supervised and safe. A paraprofessional’s salary is $16,000-$22,000 a year. Basically you can hire two full time paraprofessionals for one part-time position. However, the central office and board is looking to eliminate the paraprofessional positions.
The two 49 percent positions that really baffle me are the two at the central office held by Harley Grove and Carol Spurlin. These positions were created for each of them upon their retirement. Mr. Grove is assigned to oversee several programs to include the gifted program, the Ombudsman program and he will be the driving force behind next year’s SACS on-site visit. Yet he only works two and  half days a week.
Mrs. Spurlin is referred to by school employees as the party planner. On paper she is listed as Title I coordinator with Grove also serving as Title I facilitator. I know that the newspaper would not have enough room to print all the party notices that were collected from the central office over a period of six months.
School board members received copies of the party notices over two years ago but the parties continue. In six months time, the central office staff had time to hold eight parties during the work day and this does not include a full week of Christmas social events. My favorite party theme was the Ground Hog’s Day Celebration when ground hogs were hidden throughout the building and if you found a ground hog, you took it to the third floor eating area to claim your prize.
I wonder who we paid for a day to sit and pass out prizes. Another theme I found interesting was Halloween when adults went to the third floor eating area with their trick or treat bag. Who pays for all of this food and prizes?
Last year the combined salaries for these two part time central office positions, was $108,740.16. In the last five years we have paid over $10,000 for these two people to travel. Can you imagine how many paraprofessionals could be kept in the classroom by eliminating these two jobs and using the funds? What programs within a school system only needs part-time supervision?

Bucky Keel
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