By Dewain E. Peek,
A $700 stipend for full-time school employees, both certified and non-certified, was approved during the Tuesday, April 13 regular monthly meeting of Overton County Board of Education.
The money is hazard pay allowed in the ESSR 2.0 program, and will likely be distributed in May.
Also a $506 bonus for certified employees, using funds from the state, which is expected to be distributed in April.
Before voting yes for the stipends and bonuses, School Board members Mike Hayes, Wayne Taylor, Ricky Dodson, and Chairman Jarman Hicks noted a conflict of interest because of family members benefiting from the funds. All School Board members voted yes, with the exception of Mike Gilpatrick, who was absent.
In other action, the 2021-2022 General Purpose Schools budget was approved, as was the 2021-2022 Debt Service budget and the 2021-2022 Food Service budget.
Purchase of two Special Education school buses were approved from Central States Bus Sales at the low bid of $98,105 each for a total of $196,210. Partial funding will come from a TDEC grant.
Interim Director of Schools Donnie Holman said, “Roughly, a little less than half of this is going to be paid for with that grant.”
The School Board approved a contract for eRate upgrades for internet service, to be paid 80% through ESSR and 20% from the school system, with a total of $18,400.
Wireless access points will be added as part of the upgrades.
“Some things are different at each school,” Director Holman said.
The upgrades will help in instruction and testing, according to Director Holman.
Low bids for 2021 lawn care services for Overton County Schools were all from James White and approved as follows: A.H. Roberts Elementary – $165; Allons Elementary – $240; Hilham Elementary – $150; Livingston Middle School – $300; Livingston Academy – $515; Rickman Elementary – $310; Wilson Elementary – $325; Old Central Education Office Building – $35; and Overton County Board of Education Central Office and bus garage – $45, with soccer field for $70.
Second reading approval was given for Board policies 1.700 School District Goals and 5.100 Personnel Goals.
Deletion of Policy 5.2031 Nonrenewal was approved.
Chairman Hicks said, “It conflicts with our current policy for separation practices for non-tenured teachers.”
Anthony White’s letter of resignation from Rickman Elementary was approved, effective March 5, 2021.
Kelly Beasley’s letter of resignation as Overton County Junior Wildcats volleyball coach was approved, effective March 26, 2021.
Medical leave was extended for Kaye Killman, to continue from July 15, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
Medical leave was approved for Margie Wilson, from February 16 to June 10, 2021.
Medical leave was approved for Bonnie Stapp, from November 19, 2020 to May 26, 2021.
Medical leave was approved for Delilah Blankenship, from December 30, 2020 to March 30, 2021.
The following trips were approved:
Wilson Elementary 8th grade to Dollywood and Dolly Parton’s Stampede on May 14.
A.H. Roberts Elementary 3rd grade to Chuckie Cheese on May 5.
A.H. Roberts Elementary 4th grade to Bowling World on April 30.
A.H. Roberts Elementary 2nd grade to Thrive-Cookeville & Dogwood Park on April 1.
A.H. Roberts Elementary kindergarten to Dogwood Park on April 23.
A.H. Roberts Elementary 1st grade to Amazing Acres in Sparta on April 29.
Minutes of the March 9, 2021 meeting were approved.
The meeting adjourned and the School Board went into a work session.
Director Holman gave special recognition to Jackson Clouse, son of David and Jennifer Clouse, and Emery Clouse, daughter of James and Lora Clouse, for a winning writing project the Allons Elementary School students created in Christy Lee’s enrichment RTI class for a writing assignment.
Then David Pigg, maintenance technician at Hilham Elementary School, was recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Director Holman said, “During the recent snow and ice storm we had, we had two schools that had a lot of limbs down and trees down all over their campuses.”
Plan were being made to take bids to have the campuses cleaned up, according to Director Holman.
“But before we could do that, David Pigg cleaned everything up at Hilham on his own,” Director Holman said.
“So, I think that is the type of behavior that needs to be mentioned, needs to be bragged on. Any teacher, any employee that goes above and beyond like that, we cannot thank you enough.”
Pigg has been empoyed at Hilham Elementary School since 1987.
Next, the School Board discussed possible retirement buyouts.
Director Holman informed the Board that 17 teachers are possibly interested in the buyout.
Noting the lack of consistency of when buyouts are offered, Hayes said, “I’d like to see some kind of structure.”
School Board member Mitchell Stonecipher expressed reservations with buyouts, saying, “I know we’re losing teachers to other counties because the pay scale in Overton County is not as good as it is in other counties and so my concern is, are we paying people to leave early when we actually need those people in the school system?”
Stonecipher wanted to see the actual numbers of how cost-effective buyouts would be.
Chairman Hicks said, “If everyone on that list left, I think the cost would be around $110,000. Now, as far as the savings, it depends on which has to be filled back and which doesn’t.”
The amount received by each teacher taking a buyout depends on degree.
Director Holman said the last time buyouts were offered, in 2017, if they had a BS it was $8,000, a Master’s was $9,000, and an Ed.S was $10,000.
School Board member William Abston said, “If we can’t absorb any of these positions and it’s not going to give us any savings, then we’re just paying somebody to go away and then turn around having to hire a new person.”
Losing a high-demand position with low availability of personnel was a concern expressed.
Stonecipher said, “It’s the key positions. Are you losing key positions that you are going to have trouble filling back in with a newer teacher, lesser paid teacher, and can you target areas that you can transition from areas where maybe you’re overstaffed?”
He went on to say, “I’m not opposed to it, I just have reservations.”
Future buyouts would also depend on fund availability in the budget.
Abston suggested looking at it every five years, and Stonecipher suggested putting it into the 5-year plan.
School Board member Larry Looper was hesitant at setting buyouts at five-year intervals, and pointed out that retirement is generally available to those with 30 years of employment, so those at 29 years would have to wait five more years instead of just one more year to retire if they wanted a buyout.
Hayes also cautioned that the buyout might not be feasible in the future.
Looper said,”I think we ought to set it, but I think five years may be a little too much space.”
Director Holman clarified that if buyouts are offered, the prospective retiree would have to be employed with Overton County Schools for 15 years.
Information on the cost-effectiveness of the proposed buyouts is to be compiled and sent to the School Board members before next month’s meeting.