The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees began the long process of developing its Fiscal Year 2019 budget on Tuesday night with Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan providing an overview of both the budget process and the issues with which trustees will have to contend.
Growth and the demographics of that growth not only topped the list of issues, but impact many of the other issues that will likely impact the district’s next budget. Growth, for example, will also speak to class size under staffing issues. The demographics of that growth -- increases in the types of students coming into the district -- will affect special education and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) needs.
“I’d like to think that what we do for students should always drive the discussions, decisions and prioritizing, and the choices we have to make,” Morgan said. “What we’re finding is, as we grow, we have more special needs students, more second language students, more kids that are medically fragile -- it’s not just the students, that, basically, don’t bring a lot of additional costs, but students who (do) bring additional costs, what we’re finding is as we grow, we’re getting a higher proportion of those kids.”
Other issues Morgan included were:
• the ongoing teacher shortage;
• state and local funding;
• more rigorous standards and accountability;
• workforce development;
• state and federal mandates (especially where special education is concerned);
• costs associated with transferring classrooms to the new Camden, Lugoff and Wateree elementary schools;
• costs associated with a planned accreditation visit;
• behavioral health needs;
• restoration of cut programs, some from as far back as the 2008 economic downturn a decade ago; and
• school resource officers.
When it came to staffing, Morgan especially noted additional needs in remediation and intervention in English/language arts and math.
“What would make our district exceptional?” Morgan asked, reiterating a question Trustee Todd McDonald had brought up in previous discussions. “One of the things I hear from teachers and parents all the time is there needs to be more people who can work with kids who are struggling so they can have their ELA or their math block with their regular teacher in their regular class and then get extra help at some other point in the day so they can be double-dosed in ELA and math.”
Morgan also noted a need for reading, math and technology “coaches.”
“People to work with teachers on curriculum in (those) areas.… As a follow up to the board survey last spring, there was a question about advancement and, what I’m learning is … for a lot of teachers, advancement is not going into administration -- going into administration would be their worst nightmare. What they’re interested in is positions doing instructional coaching of other teachers.”
Other staffing issues Morgan mentioned were:
• class size;
• special education;
• new and/or restored courses and programs;
• induction (new) teacher mentors;
• district office needs, especially in terms of content for science and social studies;
• administrative assistants, especially in schools without assistant principals;
• therapeutic support for behavioral health; and
• clerical needs, which Morgan said were “cut to the bone” during the economic downturn.
Other needs Morgan discussed that may impact the budget included competitive salaries and stipends, state retirement increases, increase in line item costs, professional development (including summer stipends), classroom technology, special needs buses, deferred maintenance and playground equipment (especially in ensuring Americans with Disabilities Act compliance).
Morgan said he is likely to develop two budgets for trustees to look at: a balanced budget, and a two-year “needs-based” budget. Changes to the budget process will likely include impacts from a growth funding formula to be agreed upon by the board and Kershaw County Council, input from school improvement councils, and a desire for a “simplified” version of the budget to be presented to the public.
“I’m trying to figure out how to consolidate these 50 or so lines into, maybe five or six, for public consumption and put it in a pie chart,” Morgan said. “So, somebody in the public who’s really not interested in instructional services/technology can just sort of see what are the teacher budget lines, what are the non-teacher budget lines, what are the operational lines. Something that somebody can look at a glance and see where our money goes.”
Trustee Kim DuRant, who represents portions of the North Central area, asked about equalization among schools where non-athletic activities are concerned.
“We don’t offer any kind of music, we don’t offer chorus … so that’s a concern,” DuRant said. “There’re some children that aren’t going to be into sports, but want something to be involved in. I know the drama program has gotten feedback … there’s a need for someone who wants to be involved in music. I don’t know why we don’t have it at North Central.”
Morgan said schools need to “have the numbers” to support such activities, and that the district is hurting for electives at all schools. DuRant also asked about getting driver’s education back in schools. Morgan said he would be supportive of an outsourcing solution, noting that when the district offered driver’s education, it cost around $900 to $1,000 per student.
“I’m trying to give you a sense of what the challenges we have are. We’re not going to be able to fix them all this year; I can pretty much guarantee you that,” Morgan said.
The board also received a construction update from KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith. Smith said the building pad for one-third of the new Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC) has been laid out as has a retention pond to be used in addition to one already in place that belongs to the county.
Later in the meeting, Morgan said a proposal has been floated to attach founding ATEC director Gil Woolard’s name to the new facility. He said he would formally bring that proposal to the next facilities/finance committee meeting.
Other construction related updates from Smith included:
• North Central High School’s work is currently finishing up in the 200 and 600 wings. In addition, Smith said work on North Central’s stadium will begin with new lights and will follow a meeting set for mid-February.
• North Central Middle School’s addition is nearly complete, with Smith saying crews there have “made great progress.”
• New Camden Elementary School’s second floor has been poured and crews have installed temporary windows so that can start working on the interior of the first floor.
• New Lugoff Elementary School has also poured the second floor. Smith also said the actual front of the school will face north, toward what will become the school’s rider circle, rather than west toward Ridgeway Road.
• New Wateree Elementary School has moved forward on the wings containing kindergarten through 3rd grades. Smith said work on the 4th/5th grade wing was slowed by poor soil, but should pick up speed again shortly.
• Zemp Stadium’s old visitor’s side, which will be reconstructed as the new home side of the stadium, has been completely removed. The project is scheduled for completion by July 1.
In other business Tuesday, KCSD CFO Donnie Wilson spoke at length about matters involving the construction referendum bond and proceeds from the penny sales tax. Wilson said the district received a massive overpayment last summer from the S.C. Department of Revenue when it sent all the funds it had collected up to that point instead of just those from July 2017. He said the additional monies were sent back. In the meantime, Wilson said, November’s proceeds were $452,000, which means with total collections of $3.2 million, the district is 18 percent ahead of schedule financially.
Wilson also said Moody’s upheld its decision to give the district an “A” rating. He said the district had hoped for a higher rating, but that -- “if you read between the lines” -- Moody’s, while pleased with the district’s finances overall, is concerned about the state’s proposed pension cost increases.
Also Tuesday, Morgan and Smith swore in Trustee Derrick Proctor as chaplain, and Smith accepted a check from the Kershaw Baptist Association for $1,000 to help pay for additional school supplies this school year.