Leader Blues

Friday, November 21, 2008

TOP STORY > >Teachers to get holiday raise

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Cabot teachers received an early Christmas present this week in the form of a $750 raise; checks will be issued before Christmas break. The raise brings Cabot School District’s starting teacher salary to $36,300 a year for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience.

A total of $612,000 – raises with benefits – was approved in the district’s budget for all salaried staff earlier.

The Cabot School Board also approved the purchase of 16 acres of land along Hwy. 5 for the district’s ninth elementary school, planned to open in the fall of 2010.

“Go buy you some land, Tony,” board president Brooks Nash told Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman after the board unanimously approved the $160,000 purchase.

Located a half-mile from the Mountain Springs Road and Hwy. 5 intersection, the property is owned by Bill and Mildred Ray.

Although it’s not within the Cabot city limits, Thurman said the district had discussed annexing the property into the city limits with Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and said annexing “would certainly be our preference.”

“We have worked with the city to ensure that this site was acceptable for both the city and the district,” Thurman added.

The final drawings for the new elementary are being worked on, and Thurman said the district wants to start dirt work as soon as possible.

“We will also begin developing a traffic plan for the intersection of Mountain Springs Road and Hwy. 5 since there is currently no turn lane from Hwy. 5,” Thurman said.

The new elementary will help relieve the overcrowding at Magness Creek and Northside Elementary Schools and would require a rezoning of the district.

“Zoning would not begin until the semester preceding the opening of the school since enrollment patterns, building capacity and growth trends over the entire district would need to be as current as possibleto ensure that all zone changes have a positive impact on all district elementary schools,” Thurman said.

Cabot’s millage rate, which increased by 3.9 mills last year for a total of 39.9 mills, has been rolled back to 39.5 mills, district comptroller Kelly Hayes told the school board.

According to Thurman, the rollback will cost the district more than $200,000.

The rollback is required by Amendments 74 and 59 and is based on the increase in the assessed value of property in the district.

There is a cap on the amount of increase that can be generated in one year, Hayes told the board.

Since the assessment of property will not change once confirmed, the district is required to reduce the millage rate.

“It happens across the state, particularly in growing districts like ours,” Hayes said.

The school board unanimously approved the personnel policy committee and administration’s joint recommendation, a decision 649 certified employees voted for and five voted against.

The recommendation also calls for adding one experience step to the first four columns of the certified salary schedule.

In addition, the classified staff received a raise of 20 cents an hour and bus drivers will receive an additional 50 cents a day; registered nurses are paid based on the certified staff salary schedule.

In other school board business, Thurman gave the board an update on district-wide buildings and grounds projects, saying the district was finalizing the footprint for the Junior High South science addition; Junior High North was on schedule for completion by July 2009; the Eastside Elementary addition was almost complete; the installation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning units in the gymnasiums across the district was finished and all units were functioning; the parent drop-off lane at Northside Elementary was complete and working well and had taken many vehicles off of Locust and Mt. Springs Roads; and the addition at Westside Elementary was going slower than they liked, but they are hopeful it will be complete by the end of the school year.

Additionally, a Junior High North student was expelled for the remainder of the semester for a Level II drug infraction following an open expulsion hearing in which his parents appealed to the school board concerning the entire disciplinary action handed down by JHN administration.

The board decided to expel the 14-year-old for the remaining four weeks of the semester and then place him in the Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) for the spring semester. If he was not placed in ALE, he would be expelled for the remainder of the school year; while expelled, a student cannot attend any other public school.

The student’s parents emphatically said he would not be going to ALE.

According to JHN officials, a student was caught smoking marijuana on campus and upon further investigation it was found the student had given the drugs to the student caught smoking.

Other students said the 14-year-old youth had purchased the dime bag weeks earlier.

Three other students involved did not file an appeal against the disciplinary action taken and will be attending ALE in the spring semester.