School board talks pay scales, insurance broker and capital improvement

Among the various talking points during the Carter County School Board workshop Tuesday evening was the announcement of an official recommendation to pursue Five Points to be their insurance broker.

Board members said they chose Five Points over the Sequoyah group in part because of their natural experience with school districts specifically.

“They are working with 55 Tennessee school districts, and they are all doing different things,” Peggy Campbell said. “They do not come in and make us do anything.”

Danny Ward, however, said he wanted the two finalists to come before the full school board before making a final decision.

“I still think there is room for us to look at other situations,” Danny Ward said.

Chairman Jerry Stout said such a move was unnecessary, as the committee they assigned did its job as originally stated.

“We appointed this committee for a reason,” Stout said. “It sounds like they have done their job.”

The final vote on Five Points will take place during the full board meeting.

Lindsey Feathers from Food Service came to request their full-time cooks be raised to $10 an hour in wages.

“The total cost to take our full-time employees up to $10 an hour would be $35,780.25,” Feathers said.

She said this money would come from fund balance and not the general fund.

The request comes after a long-term effort by the school board to work towards getting the majority of full-time employees up to $10 an hour. This effort has been extra challenging for some departments due to the goal of doing so within their own budgets.

Part of this particular plan, she said, is to possibly implement a supplement scale for the managers, where employees receive a supplement based on the number of children enrolled at their school. This is because managers currently make the same as their other employees, a little over $9 an hour.

Commissioner Gary Bailey said he and his employees managed to get wi-fi access to a vast majority of the county schools during fall break last week, with the remaining schools roughly “95 percent of the way there.”

“This will give Carter County Schools wi-fi access on every campus,” Bailey said.

Towards the end of the meeting, Director of Schools Kevin Ward put forth a recommendation that, if the board was not willing to hire an outside agency to look at the consolidation question brought up several months ago, then perhaps the formation of a Capital Improvement Committee may be a better option.

He said looking into this is crucial because the financial boon they received from the extra enrollment in the new online academy will not last.

“After this year, once the money is accounted for, this is going to be a neutral number,” Kevin Ward said.

He said such a committee will already have two different studies to work with in regards to this question.

“I would like to see a committee put together,” Stout said.

He said he would like to use the information this committee would obtain to see how it can apply to their five-year or ten-year plan and put price tags on their potential options.

A discussion took place on how public this committee should be. If more than one board member is part of the committee, its meetings must be an open forum.

“I think it should be public,” LaDonna Stout-Boone said. “I think that is transparency; this is a public school system, everything is public, no secrets.”

Stout said he mostly agreed, but he had concerns about the flexibility of the committee if they prioritize such transparency.

“I would like to give them total flexibility to do their jobs,” he said. “The public comes in when it comes before the board and it is time to make a decision.”

The full school board meeting will take place this evening at 5:30 p.m. at Valley Forge Elementary, located at 1485 Riverview Dr.

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