Pay raises for all school district employees and possible start dates for the new school year were topics of discussion during Thursday’s monthly Whitley County Board of Education meeting.
During its monthly meeting, the Whitley County Board of Education approved a 1 percent pay raise for all employees throughout the district starting in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Superintendent John Siler noted the strong commitment of staff members in the district for doing what is best for students.
“I have always felt that we have an outstanding group of employees who work hard every day to provide the very best for our students. At no time could their dedication have been more apparent than in the last few months with the closure of school due to COVID-19. With very short notice our administrators and teachers designed lessons and materials for every student so they could continue to learn from home,” Siler said.
“Through phone calls, ZOOM sessions and other creative methods our employees continued to stay in contact with students to give them the best experience possible considering the situation. At a time when many were staying home, our cafeteria staff was preparing meals to be delivered to and handed out to students. We had bus drivers, bus monitors, instructional assistants and other employees who were delivering meals all across the county.”
“I felt so appreciative and proud to see how everyone worked together to provide for our students. We really do try to get the best people to work with our students and I think we are succeeding. The approval of this raise shows that the board values our employees and their dedication to their profession.”
The school board unanimously approved the pay raises Thursday.
Board Chairwoman Brenda Hill noted that the pay raise is something she has been wanting to do.
“With our district in the best shape that it has been in a long time, I would like to make a motion that we do a 1 percent pay raise districtwide, which would include our custodians, our cooks, our bus drivers and our teachers for this year,” Hill said.
Board woman Malorie Cooper agreed this was a good idea noting that district administrators have proven time and again that they are good administrators of the school budget.
Other board members echoed similar sentiments.
The pay raise is expected to cost the district between $215,000 – $220,000 annually.
During Thursday’s meeting, the board also approved a memorandum of agreement for the 2020-2021 Math Achievement Fund.
Deputy Superintendent Paula Rickett noted that the $290,400 grant provides funding for teacher training and implementation of interdiction services that address the needs of students, who struggle in the primary grades with math. The grant covers all elementary schools except for Boston Elementary School.
“We will be reapplying when the grant opens again,” she added.
In addition, the board discussed an alternate start date for school this fall due to COVID-19.
The district was originally asked to consider a start date around Aug. 12, but the Kentucky Department of Education has now asked school districts across the state to also come up with later start dates, Siler said.
The districts have been asked to consider start dates sometime in the last week of August or possibly as late as the Tuesday after Labor Day, he added.
Having a later calendar will enable local and state health officials and others to evaluate the reopening of other areas, such as manufacturing, restaurants, and even youth sports, in order to if there were spikes in COVID-19 cases, and learn lessons from those instances, Siler said.
“Hopefully this allows us to take this data and choose what the best way is to come back to school. Also, it gives us a little more time – if we choose to go this way with a later start date – to continue to prepare if it is an online distance learning platform we have to go in the district and across the state,” Siler said.
“Hopefully we won’t have to do that. Everyone I think for the most part wants to get back to a normal schedule with kids back in school and things like that. We only have to discuss this tonight.”
Siler said the issue will be brought back at the July board meeting when the board may be asked to approve a later start date.
The board’s monthly meeting Thursday took place online, and was broadcast on the school district’s website.
“I hope to see you all next month in Williamsburg,” Hill said at the close of Thursday’s meeting.