Franklin County Schools: Wage Increases vs. Bonuses

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 14 Franklin County School Board meeting, Director of Schools Stanley Bean proposed a permanent wage increase as an alternative to the October meeting request for mid-year employee bonuses.

The mid-year bonus proposed at the October meeting called for $2,000 for certified employees and $1,000 for classified employees to narrow the wage gap with neighboring counties. Bean suggested drawing on the district’s reserve fund balance to give a $500 base salary increase for teachers with bachelor’s degrees, $600 for teachers with master’s degrees, and slightly more for teachers with a master’s plus 30 credentials. A “different tabulation” would be needed to calculate wage increases for classified hourly employees, Bean said. He stressed before final calculations could be made, more information was needed on TISA (Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement), the new state formula for determining school funding. Bean estimated receiving $4 million more from TISA, but said expenses no longer covered by the state would need to “come off the top.” In support of Bean’s proposal, Board Vice Chair Lance Williams said, “Bonuses are great, but they are a one-time thing.” Observing teachers and staff were still struggling from “the fallout of COVID,” board member Sarah Marhevsky suggested a bonus and raise both. “We can do whatever we want,” Bean said, but insisted final approval would fall to the county commission. Board member Casey Roberts pointed out Coffee County planned to give $1,500 bonuses to full-time employees and $750 to part-time employees, drawing from Federal Elementary and Secondary School Extended Relief funds. Board member Linda Jones invited input from district employees and asked for their “patience.” The board anticipates having information on TISA funding by the end of the year.

In other business, the board approved Bean’s request to allocate $5-per-student for classroom expenses. The money will come from unspent funds in the Workmen’s Compensation budget, Bean said. Principals will determine how the money is distributed, allowing for flexibility at the high school level.

Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster announced a federal grant program through the University of Tennessee Southern in Pulaski, Tenn., which will enable aspiring Franklin County teachers to complete course work for teacher certification free of charge. To qualify for the two-year program, with instruction primarily online, the degree candidate would need to hold an associate degree, be employed by the school district as an educational assistant, and have a mentor paid for by the district. Foster anticipates as many as five degree candidates will begin the program in January 2023. “I’m thrilled,” Foster said. “It’s a good way to continually restaff our own community with people who live here and want to stay here.” Foster credited Sandra Stewart, coordinator of System Support Projects, for making the program a reality.

Bean announced he was stepping down as director of schools. “My contract ends June 30, and I do not plan on asking the board to extend it,” Bean said. He stressed he would help the board navigate plans for moving forward. Bean has guided the district through multiple difficult decisions occasioned by the COVID pandemic and building new middle schools [See sidebar, “Franklin County Director of Schools to Retire.”]

The board will take up hiring a new director of schools at a workshop, at 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 21. The board will also use the workshop to review the appeal of parents challenging the determination of the Disciplinary Hearing Authority to require alternative school for a student who committed a zero-tolerance offence.

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