HCPS seeks #036;900,000 hike

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2006

AHOSKIE – The Hertford County Board of Education and the Hertford County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday night to discuss the school system’s budget for the upcoming year.

Hertford County Schools’ superintendent Dennis Deloatch presented a preliminary budget to the commissioners, asking for an increase of $760,836 plus an additional $144,326 hike in capital outlay funds.

The request covers a recommended five percent salary increase for teachers and administrators from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, an increase in retirement costs, health care costs, transportation and fuel costs, utility costs and maintaining current positions and key programs as well as small class size.

The increase in capital outlay costs include funds for repairs and renovations to school buildings, technology costs, equipment and furniture costs and paving costs.

Deloatch discussed several programs the school system has developed with other organizations to improve the education of Hertford County students, including the Nucor Scholars Program and the Educational Foundation. The Nucor Scholars Program provides grants to teachers who are willing to undergo the National Board certification process and provides scholarship money for teachers trying to achieve advanced degrees. Nucor recently made a $20,000 donation to the Educational Foundation, which focuses on providing supportive services through endowments, scholarships, mini-grants and contributions to support students, teachers and educational programs in the Hertford County School System.

Deloatch also discussed faith-based organizations providing tutorial programs and retired teachers assisting the school system by tutoring students.

“There is a federal mandate from the No Child Left Behind Act,” Deloatch said. “One-hundred percent of all students should be at grade level by 2013, but the federal government is not providing any extra funds.

“The President (Bush) is going to cut the education budget by 3.8 percent this year,” Deloatch said.

“We offer teachers a three percent supplement, but another county not to far away from us (Wake) offers a 13 percent supplement,” Deloatch said. “We offer a $1,000 signing bonus and they offer a $7,000 signing bonus.”

Deloatch also discussed the plan to build housing for teachers, financed through a $2 million loan from the North Carolina Employee’s Credit Union. According to Deloatch, Kerr Plastics has agreed to donate $146,000 to the project for infrastructure costs.

“We are doing all we can to recruit highly qualified teachers,” Deloatch said.

Deloatch added that almost 40 percent of children coming into Hertford County’s school system come in one-year behind where they should be. Seventeen percent of Hertford County students qualify as exceptional students compared to a state average of 12.5 percent, Deloatch said.

“We realize it is hard to attract new teachers,” Commissioner DuPont Davis said. “Both sides are in a bad situation.”

“How is the increase in funds going to help improve our test scores,” Commissioner Howard Hunter III asked.

“All of these programs contribute (to improving test scores),” Deloatch said.

There is a direct correlation with funding these programs and test scores improving, Deloatch said.

“We’ve had to use the fund balance to maintain a high level,” Board of Education member Ronald Baker said. “This could be a train wreck if we keep doing this and we are trying to get out of this.”

“There are things we do that other school districts don’t do,” Board of Education Chairman David Shields said. “We provide a nurse in every school. Many of our children are not well when they come to us.

“This is critical for us,” Shields continued. “The state only pays for two (nurses). The schools are basically having to raise some these children.”

“The best thing you can do is network with other (school) districts and find out what they are doing,” Davis said. “We are in this together and we want our children to come back and work here.”

“Last year there was an honest effort (from the commissioners) to help the public schools,” Board of Education member John Horton said. “I believe you will do it again this year.”

“Attracting teachers is not just the school boards’ problem, it affects everyone,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Curtis Freeman said.

The two groups discussed a suggestion made by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning Jr. to deny 44 low-performing high schools across the state from opening their doors for the start of the 2006-07 academic year. Judge Manning identified the 44 schools, including Hertford County High School, and cited the academic shortcomings at these schools. Manning laid out the consequences if these schools continue to post composite test scores of 55 percent and below.

Davis relayed a story about attending a county commissioners’ conference and hearing that HCHS was going to be shut down.

“It was not a good feeling,” Davis said. “What is being done to address this situation?”

“A plan has been put in place,” Deloatch said. “He (Manning) made this recommendation based only an how a child performs on the EOC test.”

“You have a terrific challenge in front of you,” Commissioner Johnny Farmer said. “We want to get out of this rut.

“Keeping a good teacher is a real problem,” Farmer continued. “It takes money to lure and keep teachers. You can’t fault them for leaving.”

Farmer also expressed his concern over having several different principals at the high school the past few years.

“We are not where we need to be, but we are improving,” Baker concluded.