System to seek two new school officers

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McKenzie Special School District

In what kind of turned out to be a choice between either getting new visitors-side bleachers for the middle school gym or seeking two new school resource officers (SROs) for the district as a whole, members of the McKenzie Board of Education opted to go for the additional officers during their June 14 meeting.

The matter of bleachers came up first on the agenda. Director of Schools Lynn Watkins pointed out that while the visitors-side bleachers in the MMS gym are still in pretty good shape, they don’t match the home-side bleachers, which has become something of an eyesore for many.

Watkins estimated that purchasing and installing new bleachers for the visitor’s side would cost around $40,000.

During the board’s discussions, it was brought up that the very next item on the agenda was to discuss the possibility of hiring more SROs, and as the budget doesn’t designate funding for either new bleachers or officers, they just might have to choose one or the other.

At one point, board member Karen Fowler made a motion to purchase new bleachers, but that motion was voted down with board members Greg Barker, George Cassidy, and LaShonda Williams voting against it and board member Misty Aird abstaining. Board member Chad Brown was absent.

Moving on to the issue of SROs, Watkins said that he has spoken to Carroll County Sheriff Andy Dickson, and Dickson told him that while the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t currently have any officers they could assign to the role of SRO, he was willing to start searching for potential officers to fill that role, if the board so chooses.

Watkins said that the district’s single SRO, Officer Nick Lowe, has been having to divide his time and efforts between all three school facilities. Lowe is employed through the Sheriff’s Department, which supplies Lowe’s equipment and training, while the school district pays for his salary and insurance.

Watkins said that bringing on two more fulltime SROs would cost the school district around $60,000 apiece and the money would have to come out of the General Purpose Fund.

Some discussion was held on the possibilities of just hiring one new fulltime officer or one fulltime officer and a part time officer. Finally, Williams made the motion to go ahead and get the ball rolling on seeking two new fulltime officers so that each school facility could have its own SRO. That motion passed unanimously.

After the vote, however, Cassidy said he had not really understood the motion and would be more in favor of just hiring one new officer. Board chairman Jon Davis said reversing or changing the board’s action would require putting it on the agenda for a future board meeting.

Watkins said it might take some time for new prospective SROs to be found and trained.

• • •

New budget, tax rate approved

The board also gave unanimous approval to a new 2022-23 fiscal year budget and separately voted to the keep the school district property tax rate at its current level.

As Watkins detailed, the total $12 million budget includes four percent salary increases for all of the district’s 157 employees (excepting substitute teachers), as well as $1,000 Christmas bonuses to be included in the November paychecks.

Board members voted unanimously to keep the property tax rate at $1.1844 per $100 of assessed property value. Of that, $0.6730 goes into the General Purpose School Fund and $0.5114 goes toward the Debt Service Fund.

• • •

In other business:

•The board approved several recommended year-ending amendments to the 2021-22 fiscal year budget.

•The 2023 Consolidated Application for all federally-funded programs was approved, Watkins was authorized to file application for this funding, and Supervisor Ladona Herrin was designated to carry out duties associated with the Consolidated Application.

•General Fund expense accounts were approved for all three schools. Watkins said this is just to acknowledge that each of the schools engages in fundraising and spends money out of their individual offices.

•Watkins was authorized to continue in his role as the school district’s fiscal agent and to sign all checks on all district and school accounts for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

•The board approved a new board policy regarding Cimex Lectularius (or bed bugs) with only one required reading. Watkins said this policy is about the same as the current headlice policy and provides some guidance for school nurses.

•The board approved a recommendation by MHS principal Kelly Spivey to adopt a separate grading scale regarding applications for HOPE scholarships, while keeping the high school’s internal grading scale as it is currently. As Spivey explained, the state is now requiring that a 10-point grading scale be used in determining eligibility for HOPE scholarships, but Spivey added that he would not be in favor of changing the school’s more rigorous grading scale. Spivey also said that he has devised a computer program that can automatically convert between the two grading scales.

•Watkins advised the board they would not be meeting in July and that the next regular meeting would be on Aug. 2.

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