​School Board Weighs Inadequate Teacher Salaries

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the April 9 meeting of the Franklin County School Board, Assistant Superintendant Linda Foster recommended a 2 percent increase for all certified employees, raising questions about whether the amount was adequate and whether the money would be available.
“We haven’t made progress on our need to attract and retain quality teachers,” said fifth district school board representative Adam Tucker. “We’re having the same conversation we had last year, and I’m disappointed. Two percent barely covers the cost of living increase.”
Eighth district school board member Sara Liechty noted teachers’ salaries increased based on years of service, but that increase stopped at the 20-year mark.
“In other area school systems, teachers receive salary increases up to 25 years and in some systems up to 35 years,” Foster acknowledged.
Third district board member Lance Williams said there were “rumors about a 2 percent raise for all county employees,” but expressed concern the county commission might not approve the increase. Likewise, the amount of state Basic Education Program (BEP) funding remains unknown.
Foster anticipates having BEP estimates next week. “We can move backward if we need to,” Foster said, if funding amounts came in below expected levels.
The board approved an across the board 2 percent increase for all certified employees for budgeting purposes.
Turning to the pay scale for classified and support employees, Foster recommended category-based increases for maintenance employees and a 2 percent increase for all others.
Foster proposed a starting wage of $15.50 per hour for employees experienced in carpentry, flooring, painting, and plumbing and $18 per hour for licensed HVAC technicians and electricians. “We need skilled maintenance people most of the time, and we won’t get them for $11 per hour,” Foster said, citing last year’s budget.
Seventh district board member Gary Hanger called attention to the shortage of substitute teachers at the high school level and speculated raising the wage might help.
Non-certified substitutes earn $62.50 per day and certified substitutes earn $67.50 per day.
Williams said increasing certified substitutes pay could result in substitutes making more than assistants who earned $69 per day.
Liechty and Hanger stressed substitutes had far more responsibility than assistants and that certified substitutes did a far better job of managing a class and keeping order than non-certified substitutes.
Hanger said Tullahoma City Schools paid certified substitutes $100 day.
The board approved Foster’s recommended classified and support employees pay scale amended to increase the certified substitutes’ wage to $80 per day to help alleviate the substitute shortage.
In other businesses the board voted to sell a vacant 5.2 acre tract adjacent to the Townsend School property. Nearby property recently sold for $5,000 per acre. The board set the minimum bid on the vacant tract at $15,000.
Director of Schools Stanley Bean asked the board to increase his contract from two years to four years, citing ongoing issues confronting the school system, notably the new middle school initiative. Bean will meet individually with board members to discuss the request.
School system safety specialist Mark Montoye provided the board with an overview of the Interquest Detection Canines program, which uses dogs in unannounced searches to detect illegal and prescription drugs, alcohol, weapons, and ammunition. Searches by law enforcement canines only detected illegal items, Montoye noted.
Montoye stressed the dogs were “not aggressive” and trained to sit to signal a “hit.” The school principal and school resource officers then dealt with the issue.
The program would cost $550 per visit, with both high schools and both middle schools inspected.
Tucker asked to postpone a vote on the program to confirm law enforcement’s approval and to investigate whether it violated 4th amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable search.
Two parents addressed the board. Joanne Hammer asked the board to adopt a foreign exchange student policy. Hammer said her daughter was not eligible for the Beta Club and National Honor Society in her senior year because she was not considered enrolled during her junior year in Japan. Chris Ball asked the board to adopt a student protest policy requiring board and parent approval for a student to protest and forbidding protests by students below the high school level.
The board meets next May 14.