Teachers’ supplements approved

Published 7:47 pm Friday, October 4, 2019

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WINDSOR – When recently appointed Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Otis Smallwood formally introduced himself before the Bertie County Commissioners last month, he also came with a request from the Bertie County Board of Education.

Smallwood discussed implementing a three percent supplement ($151,267) for all BCS certified staffers as a way of competing with other counties for licensed teacher talent to ensure Bertie’s students have the necessary tools for success. The Superintendent cited the loss of 10 percent of BCS staffers, mainly because of a lack of an adequate supplement.

Commissioner Ernestine Bazemore encouraged the Board to invest in the staff and students here in Bertie County.

“If we want to attract industries, a qualified workforce is important; we have to get our scores up,” Bazemore said.

At the Sept. 16 Planning Session, Bazemore brought up the Superintendent’s request again for discussion among the Commissioners, and made a motion to approve the request for the $151,267 funds for the supplement, seconded by Commissioner Ron Wesson.

During discussion, questions ranged from items such as the source of the funding for such an appropriation. County Finance Director William Roberson acknowledged it would have to come from the county’s fund balance.

The supplements issue has always been tied to the county’s vote on the one-quarter of one-cent sales tax increase, which has twice been rejected by county voters.

Wesson suggested the county push this funding initiative on a future ballot, admitting it would have passed had the entire BCPS staff voted in favor.

County Manager Scott Sauer discussed the possibility of a special election so that this initiative was the only item listed on a ballot.

“This could work more favorably for the county if it were advertised as the only item on a ballot instead of on a more congested one,” Sauer noted.

While both Board Vice Chair Greg Atkins and fellow-Commissioner Tammy Lee expressed their support for the BCS request, both also felt additional time should be taken to review the county’s financial information prior to voting on this matter.

But this request was not considered as Chairman John Trent called for a vote, which went 3-2 in favor of approving the supplement request. Trent, Bazemore, and Wesson voting in favor, with Lee and Atkins voting against.

Following the vote, Lee made it clear she was in support of the initiative, but was looking for more time to review the matter before participating in a formal vote.

“To attain talent we need, we must provide this supplement for teachers and staff,” Trent said. “This is not an option; it is an investment in the future of our students.”

Smallwood expressed gratitude to the Commissioners and to the citizens of the county for the appropriation.

“I am delighted to have the continued support of our County Commissioners on this endeavor,” the Superintendent said in a statement. “Providing additional funds for us to give supplements to our employees will show our dedicated staff that we appreciate them and all they do for the students and families in Bertie County Schools. This is truly a win-win.”