School board eliminates positions

By Amanda Dodson -

Stokes County School Board discussed the grim reality of cuts after local funding came in $1,229,237 less than requested for the 2018-19 school year.

School superintendent Dr. Brad Rice presented the board with pages of recommended cuts after several director meetings were held at the central office.

The largest cuts:

Leave the supplement at its current rate (based off of 2013/14 school year), savings of $309,863

Electricity, new information from Duke Energy states to plan for a five percent increase compared to 12 to 15 percent with a savings of $210,000

Proposed one-time supplement catch up, savings of $214,093

Cut three teaching positions, savings of $162,055

Cut three buses, savings of $72,500

Other substantial cuts:

Eliminate Director of Operations position, savings of $43,000

Hiring a Behavior Assistant position, savings of $34,451

Decrease background checks, $30,000

CTE programming (9 months), $49,426

Tutoring, $43,000

“The electricity is a big one. We were being told to look at a 12 to 15 percent rate increase for this upcoming year,” Rice said. “They’ve said now to plan for a five percent rate increase. The difference between 15 percent and 5 percent is a lot of savings.”

Rice recommended the operations position, currently held by David Burge, who is set to retire in December, not be filled with a savings to the school system of $43,000.

“We had asked for another behavior assistant position to help with our mental health issues in our schools. Taking that out of the budget would save $34,451,” Rice said. “We talked about the new background checks. We were hoping to have that cost here at the central office and not have people pay that themselves, but if we ask parents to pay that, that will save us about $30,000.”

Two of the three buses in the recommended cut are currently vacant positions.

Aside from the recommended cuts, Rice presented additional options for the board to consider which included eliminating in-school suspension, for a savings of $206,706 ($34,451 at six schools), but noted it would increase out-of-school suspension and possibly escalate discipline issues.

The school board also reviewed the possibility of reducing assistant principal roles in some middle and high schools.

In potential long term planning cuts, eight schools were listed for possible elimination: Stokes Early College, Germanton, Nancy Reynolds, North Stokes, Pine Hall, Piney Grove, Pinnacle and Sandy Ridge.

“I’m certainly not suggesting any of this for this year, but it’s something we’re going to need to start having the conversation with in the community. Either we’re going to have to have more funding or we’re going to have to eliminate some things.”

Rice added, “As a county we’re going to have to decide what we want. Do we want a low tax rate or do we want our neighborhood schools because it’s going to come to that in the near future.”

School Board member Pat Messick asked about the three recommended teacher cuts and if they were currently on staff.

Rice said they were looking at resignations or retirements and the possibility of shifting positions.

“As far as the tutoring,” Messick said, “If you don’t start at the beginning of the year at the elementary schools, you know there are some that are not going to do well on the EOG (end of grade testing). Won’t that make it worse? That’s problematic all the way around. I feel like that’s a concern.”

Vice chair, Sonya Cox, who’s been on the school board for more than a decade, said there were ways to make up for it at the school level.

“When you look at it, it’s $43,000 but not $43,000 at each school. That’s over 19 schools so you’re talking $3,000 per school,” she said. “We could always leave the tutoring money in and not fill the AP (assistant principal) position at South Stokes.”

Paul Hall was recently named principal at Meadowbrook Academy, leaving the assistant principal position open at South.

Assistant Superintendent Tony George reminded the board South Stokes numbers are down and the school currently has 490 students enrolled, a principal and an assistant principal.

“I’m not for cutting assistant principals at the elementary level, but I’m just talking about schools that already have two,” Cox said. “It’s sheer numbers and it doesn’t make sense there.”

Rice voiced concerns about administrators providing supervision at extracurricular activities, but reiterated, it was on the list as a possibility and each cut has an impact.

“He’s done a good job with this because it doesn’t look like he’s picking on one area,” George said about Rice and the recommended cuts made throughout the county. “We get blamed on picking for the north or south end, but it’s cuts everywhere and in different areas.”

The school board voted to eliminate the assistant principal position at South Stokes, an estimated $60,000 savings, and continue tutoring.

Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.

By Amanda Dodson