Several items produced substantial discussion before the formal votes, and comments are summarized below.
Lease renewal for HeadStart
The Headstart is housed in a Rock Hill School District facility. The rent is $1 per year, and Headstart takes care of utilities and some maintenance. Outside maintenance of the property costs the district about $50,000 per year, but saves district funds which would be spent on underprepared kindergarten students who would need special teaching without the Headstart program. The board voted to extend the expiring rental agreement for six months. I have requested a discussion about longterm usage of the building. The Board’s first responsibility is to the district, but I would hate to lose Headstart, which gives many students a better academic start than they would have without the program.
Issuance of General Obligation Bonds to cover Capital items previously approved
In order to gain better rates, some of the financing will be handled differently than originally planned, so the board needed to vote to approve the details of the changes. The administration has recommended that the board approve bonds but wait to issue them until rates are very favorable, and the board has sensibly voted to do that, to save the district money. It is a sound financial plan, but it has caused funding for some capital items to be so late that the items cannot be used in the year they are funded. They are capital purchases, so they will be used in future years, but I was assured that there is a mechanism in place to allow purchases of approved capital items prior to issuance of bonds.
The opening of school report was more detailed than I remember in the past, and I appreciate receiving the administration’s information.. Formal student numbers are reported to the state for day 15 of the school year, but the four day report give us an idea.
- The district has 17,627 students right now, up by 74 from the end of last year
- 171 employees were hired since April
Of those 171
- 126 are new certified people (teachers), among them 43 brand new teachers, which is down from 57 last year
- 7 are administrators
- 38 are non-certified (support personnel)
The 2014-15 budget included $1,300,000 for new special education personnel, and the board was worried that finding them after such late approval was going to be a problem, so Ms. Partlow made an extra report on special education hiring. She hopes all spotswill soon be filled, but the administration does not want to fill them unless they are confidant the applicant will work out.
- 2 of the 3 new psychologist positions have been filled
- All 6 resource teachers have been hired
- Both speech therapists have been hired
- Both new American sign language interpreters have been hired
Dr. Jaworowski’s report on new assignments of Reading Coaches and Reading Recovery Teachers is summarized below.
Each Elementary School has a Full Time teacher assigned to give extra reading help this year. The state paid for a Reading Coach in each Title I school (those schools with the highest number of children whose lunches are subsidized), to support new laws passed. In all the other Elementary Schools, the state paid for a half-time Reading Coach, and the district hired them full-time and pays the other half of the salary. The Coaches give teachers professional training so that they continue to improve in teaching reading. The other time the reading teachers are working with students on reading. This should help Rock Hill students to reach on-level reading scores by third grade, which is a new state requirement for passing to fourth grade.
Not passing students on unless they can read sounds obvious, but creates its own set of problems. Students who fail twice usually eventually drop out, so it is risky to hold a student back. In addition, it is difficult to help a nine-year-old who can’t yet read and is repeatedly held back in class of six-year-olds, so without extra help in the classroom, those who fall behind eventually get passed to the next grade, creating a need for yet more extra help in upper grades. The new state law requiring third grade reading improvements came with some new funding for new reading coaches, but not enough, however we hope at least that funding continues beyond a couple of years. There is little point in holding back K-3 students unless they are getting some extra help from more teachers specializing in reading.
Finally, after a L-O-N-G executive session, the board voted to notify the City of Rock Hill that the Rock Hill School Board objects to the TIF extension pending receipt of further information from the city. In theory, the TIF is a great idea, but it is a responsibility of the School Board to check all the details and make sure the school district is protected in all eventualities. We need some more information from the city on certain matters. You can see a one minute video and read more about the TIF under the menu item above. Though it seems dull to most people, it will change some of the district’s funding for the next twenty-five years, and affect the district beyond that time, so it is a very important issue. The public hearing on the TIF is in City Council Chambers during their regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 8, when the board will be in a regularly scheduled Work Session.