School Board considers $1M to help schools

Dewain E. Peek/OCN screen shot

School Board member William Abston presents the $1 million proposal.

By Dewain E. Peek,

OCN Editor

A plan to provide $1 million in relief for school needs was presented during the Overton County Board of Education work session held Tuesday, Nov. 10 after the regular monthly meeting.

School Board member William Abston proposed taking $1 million out of fund balance to help schools with the shortfall from this year’s lack of fundraisers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

He suggested taking $400,000 and dividing that between the schools to use 10% of it for maintenance, 10% for the libraries, 10% for the physical education programs, 10% for playgrounds, and 50% for prinicipals’ discretionary spending for the schools.

“I propose that $50,000 go to Rickman, Hilham, Allons, Livingston Middle, A.H. Roberts, Wilson, and REACH, and $100,000 to Livingston Academy,” Abston said.

He then proposed $350,000 be divided among all the classrooms.

“I think we have roughly 233 active classrooms right now,” Abston said.

This would give $1,500 for teachers to buy supplies or whatever is needed.

“This will give teachers the freedom to buy what they are comfortable using, what they think might work better,” Abston said.

He also suggested $250,000 for an in-house grant process, which would be broken into 50 grants of $5,000 each.

“Every teacher could apply for that grant, and if they were awarded that grant they could use it to get technology, they could do curriculum, they could do supplies, whatever they needed,” Abston said.

At 6 months and at a year after receiving the grants, those teachers would present to the Board how the funds were used.

Chairman Jarman Hicks set a committee to iron out the details of the proposal so it can be approved by the School Board and then the County Commission as soon as possible. Committee members are Ricky Dodson, Wayne Taylor, Mike Gilpatrick, Bruce Hudgens, Chairman Hicks, and Director Winningham.

A proposal for the School Board to vote on is planned to be ready for the January meeting.

Also in the work session, School Board member Larry Looper asked for the Board to consider giving paraprofessionals a raise.

“They’ve not had one for right at 10 years,” he said, “and I think they need one.”

Chairman Hicks set a committee to look into a raise for the paraprofessionals and to have a recommendation by the January meeting. Members of the committee are Abston, Mitchell Stonecipher, Mike Hayes, Chairman Hicks, Director Winningham, and School Budget Director Heather Melton, with Abston acting as chairman of the committee.

Stonecipher brought up the need for a drainage fix at Allons Elementary School where the gymnasium floor is buckling, and was assured that would be looked into with the $1 million proposal.

He also brought up a need for IT help at the schools, which has been needed more because of the remote learning instituted during the pandemic.

“We only have three IT members in our department here in the entire school district,” Stonecipher said.

He suggested looking at hiring another IT specialist.

Director Winningham agreed, “There is no doubt that we could probably use two or three more people in IT right now because of the things we’re having to do. Obviously, that wasn’t put in the budget, but there is no doubt there is a need there, and at some point we’re going to have to address it.”

Stonecipher also brought up that LA Alumni Association’s project this year is to install a 24 x 30 storage building on the Livingston Academy campus for the school’s use.

Director Winningham said, “They are in desperate need for storage.”

Chairman Hicks said placement of the building will be added to next month’s meeting agenda.

Also discussion of paving the parking lot at Rickman Elementary School will be put on next month’s meeting agenda.