Berkeley school board unanimously passes attendance line change

Berkeley County School Board.

The Berkeley County School Board Finance and Human Resources Committee recommended that the Berkeley County School Board raise teachers salaries, hire more assistant principals and reduce class sizes at a special-called meeting this week.

In light of the recent budget increase, committee Chairman Michael Ramsey called the June 18 meeting. The BCSD budget will likely grow from $6 million to $8 million dollars for fiscal year 2019-2020 due to an increase in revenue from county growth.

The board said its also anticipating a significant tax millage rollback, consistent with state law. Millage is used to calculate property tax, though Act 388 prevents the state from taxing owner-occupied homes for the purpose of school operating expenses.

Committee members said the additional money will be used to help BCSD students, teachers and administrators in a variety of ways. The committee recommended to reduce the size of second grade classrooms from 25 students to 21.

According to Ashley Smith, CFO for BCSD, the reduction would require the district to hire 25 new teachers for a total salary cost of $1,855,000. She also explained why the district is targeting second grade.

“Second grade is a pivotal point for development and growth,” Smith said.

The committee also recommended that the school district work to reduce the elementary resource allocation from 33 students to 20. This would require the district to hire 17 additional teachers for a price tag of $1,298,850.

Another suggestion during the meeting was to add 39 more special education instructional assistants to self-contained special education classrooms and that the school board make a motion to hire eight assistant principals for multiple schools with growing student populations and schools’ needs.

Smith suggested adding assistant principals to Cane Bay High and Middle schools and Stratford High School because of the large student populations. Assistant principals will also be added to Cross High School and Berkeley Middle School and serve as instructional leads. Foxbank and Nexton elementary schools will receive assistant principals due to their large special education populations. Berkeley Intermediate School will get an assistant principal because of the Head Start program.

Smith said that it is possible that the assistant principals’ salaries for Cross High and Berkeley Intermediate be funded by a grant next year rather than the BCSD budget.

The committee recommended a 1-2 percent increase in teachers’ salaries in the district. This increase is in addition to the mandatory 4 percent increase the state requires. That means overall teachers could see a 5-6 percent wage raise. Committee members also recommended a $100 match for any teacher qualifying for a $275 supply supplement check from the state.

“We appreciate our board’s focus on making decisions that directly impact the efficiency of teachers and the lives of our students,” said Kelly Wulf, BCSD chief academic and innovation officer, in a statement. “The priority the Board and Dr. Ingram place on these recommendations shows their commitment to everyone impacted by our schools.”

These recommendations will be brought to the Berkeley County School Board for approval at its June 25 meeting.