Class sizes, teacher pay are school budget priorities

The budget season is around the corner and the Hanover School Board agreed to focus its dollars on class sizes and employees.

With about a $162 million budget, the Board must decide how and where exactly to allot that money, according to David Myers, assistant superintendent of business and operations.

After recent budget cuts, the number of positions have decreased. As a result, some classroom sizes have increased.

Hanover County Public Schools has hired David Myers as assistant superintendent for business and operations.

Myers

“I think we need to have a road map for how we want to sustain and enhance the opportunities for our kids,” Myers told the Board during a Sept. 23 planning meeting. “That’s what we’re trying to frame today.”

The current class size average is 22.1 students per class although the Board’s goal for classroom size is 21.5. However, some classrooms are much larger. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jamelle Wilson said there are third grade classes with 24 or 25 students.

Ashland District representative Hank Lowry did not feel that it was necessary to decide on the appropriate class size until after the district’s school-wide study. At last month’s meeting, the Board unanimously agreed to review enrollment and school capacities at all county schools.

“The question is: how many children do you believe are appropriate for maximized learning to take places in those classrooms?” Wilson said.

Lowry suggested the Board look at all school levels; rather than grouping them together.

Board members agreed that “experts,” or school officials, should be responsible for deciding on classroom size.

Employee salaries will also be a high priority next year, after the School Board agreed they want to keep Hanover competitive with neighboring school districts.

This past school year, Hanover schools lost 100 employees. Charla Cordle, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the biggest reason for the drop off was retirement.

Some Board members said employee compensation must look at benefits and salaries in a specific way.

“Benefits and salaries go hand in hand,” said Glenn T. Millican Jr., Mechanicsville representative. “I don’t think you can cut off one and pay for the other.”

The Board said that if and when a salary increase occurs, it would apply to all current and future employees.

“Salary adjustments are a very high priority for me,” said Norman Sulser, Cold Harbor board member.

No specific increase in employees’ salaries was decided on at the planning meeting.

Two other areas the Board will focus on include increasing the staff within the gifted and talented program at middle schools and the English as a Second Language program.

Several years ago, the Board agreed to reduce the number of gifted and talented teachers to less than one instructor per school meaning that one teacher may float to several schools. The Board is reassessing that decision and would like to have one teacher per school.

The Board wants to add more staff in the ESL program, because there are roughly 200 students requiring those services according to Wilson.

“I know that population is growing,” Myers said.

Oct. 8, the public can give input on the Board’s budget goals for next year.

Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm