Franklin County School Board Legislative Action Recommendations

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 9 meeting, the Franklin County School Board voted to adopt as a resolution four recommendations for state legislative action proposed by board member Sarah Marhevsky. The board also revisited the mid-year wage increase question and heard updates on Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) spending.

“I put this [legislative agenda] together based on what other districts are doing and things that have been important to us,” Marhevsky said. Repealing or pausing the third-grade retention law topped Marhevsky’s list. She pointed out third graders who missed half their kindergarten year were most impacted by COVID. She suggested, if a retention law must remain in place, the practice would better be implemented in second grade when “students are learning to read and not reading to learn.”

On student testing, the recommendations noted no county in the state met the 70 percent proficiency goal. Marhevsky recommended instead setting benchmarks for proficiency and tracking groups of students to access progress. The recommendations also called for more funding for universal PreK, especially if the retention law remained in place; more money for employee wages; and more money for teacher education, especially “grow your own” programs. The recommendations denounced use of public-school funding for vouchers, tax credits, charter schools, and other programs that took funding away from the “truly public schools.”

Board members Sara Leichty and Linda Jones praised the document. “We need to adopt it and send it to the state legislature,” said Jones. Board chair Cleijo Walker suggested formalizing the document as a resolution.

Revisiting the December special-called meeting discussion on mid-year raises, Director of Schools Stanley Bean said he still had not received data on the amount of increased funding the county could expect from TISA (Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement) and that based on talks with county commissioners, if the school district gave a 3 percent raise midyear, the commission would not support the 8.75 percent target wage increase at budget time in the spring. Bean recommended, “waiting for spring and asking for what we want to ask for, even if it’s up to nine percent. Whatever TISA does not cover, we ask the county commission to supplement the rest of it.”

Marhevsky asked about proceeding with the mid-year raise for cafeteria workers, who earned only $11.25 per hour. Data presented at the December meeting, showed that cafeteria workers could receive a raise since the cafeteria budget had excess funds and operated separately from the general school fund budget. “I don’t feel comfortable with a cafeteria raise midyear either,” Bean insisted, suggesting the wage increase come in the spring for cafeteria workers, as well.

Updating the board on ESSER 2 spending, Bean said four schools would receive new roofs and work was underway. Bids for windows at Franklin County High School came in slightly high, according to Bean, $150,000 above the $450,000 projected. He suspected an error due to a “mix up” in the bidding process which will be reviewed. Of the $450,000 cost, $300,000 will come from ESSER 3 and the remainder will come from $339,000 in unused middle-school capital outlay funds which were returned to the reserve fund balance and remain dedicated to capital improvements.

Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster announced an unfilled grade-six teacher position, two educational assistant positions, and several custodial positions. She urged qualified applicants to apply.

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