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BCSD board approves budget focused on addressing several school-level concerns

Published Wednesday, June 26, 2019

June 25, 2019 Board of Education Meeting

Those attending the June 25, 2019 Board of Education Meeting celebrated after the board passed the 2019-2020 budget, which included a six percent pay increase for all employees. (BCSD photo)

At the Tuesday, June 25 meeting of the Berkeley County Board of Education, a second reading of the school district’s general fund budget was held and passed – approving several measures focused on positively impacting schools.

Some of the measures, board members said, were several months in the making. Others, were carefully researched after the district learned there would be an increase in projected revenue due to growth in Berkeley County.

Among priorities set and approved by the board were the following:

- 25 teachers to achieve district wide second grade class size reduction, 21:1

- Additional mental health workers (8) and social workers (2), for a district total of 22 mental health workers and 11 social workers

- 39 special education assistants to be placed in every self-contained classroom

- 17.5 elementary resource teachers, 20:1

- Additional $100 for teacher supply checks

- 31 bookkeepers at elementary and middle schools with students over 500

- 5 assistant principals (CBM, BMS, CHS, CBH, SHS) and 3 administrative assistants (BIS, FBE, NES) to support growth

- 6 percent pay increase – all employees will receive the increase (plus STEP)

While acknowledging some community members may be critical of how the board decided to manage the increase in revenue, District 1 Representative Michael Ramsey said decisions were made carefully and responsibly. He thanked teachers, principals and other staff members for “tightening the belt and being thrifty” with money during the public budget hearing that preceded Tuesday’s regular meeting.

“We are not overextending ourself,” Ramsey said. “We have put a lot of thought in this budget, a lot of effort, a lot of going back and forth. ... It’s really been a team effort as far as the whole school district.”

During the same hearing, Board Chair Sally Wofford shared she’s most proud of the board’s ability to take action on feedback provided by teachers and principals.

“This is what we have dedicated the last couple of months to – putting money into the things that are the most important and funding the things that teachers and principals are telling us,” Wofford said.

As far as the approved class size adjustments listed above, Wofford said she hopes the board can continue to explore options and consider other grade levels, one grade at a time, moving forward.

“It makes me very excited,” Wofford said of the potential for the board to continue looking at ways to decrease caseloads and class sizes.

From salary increases across the board to the adding social and mental health workers in schools, several board members wanted to make it clear that they are excited about making “steps in the right direction” as it relates to continuing to meet the needs of students and teachers.

“We are very excited about this budget. …Things that are very important to kids, things that are very important to teachers,” Wofford said.

District 5 Representative David Barrow said the board “would be remiss” to not celebrate the ability, on top of all other budget priorities, to increase pay as much as eight or nine percent for many employees.

“It actually goes back to last December where there was a two percent,” Barrow said. “Then, the state mandated four. Then, the board additionally, in the budget now, is a two percent. If you add those up, it’s eight percent.”

Brian Troutman