McDowell County educators were honored at Monday night’s board meeting for meeting or exceeding test scores during the 2018-2019 school year.

All 14 schools met or exceeded state growth standards. McDowell County Schools was the largest district in the state that met or exceeded growth in all schools, Superintendent Mark Garrett said at the meeting.

“That is 100 percent of schools meeting or exceeding growth at the same time. That is a first in school history,” said Garrett. “We have no low performing schools in McDowell County for the first time.”

West McDowell Middle School exceeded academic growth and was in the top 5% in the state for growth. West Marion Elementary School met academic growth and was in the top 50% in the state for growth. Pleasant Gardens Elementary met academic growth. Old Fort Elementary School exceeded growth and was in the top 10% in the state. North Cove Elementary met academic growth. McDowell High School exceeded growth expectations and is in the top 5% in the state. Nebo Elementary School met academic growth. McDowell Early College was honored for their graduation rate of 96.2%, which is one of the top schools in the state. They also exceeded growth expectations and were in the top 10% in the state. McDowell Academy of Innovation met growth in their first year as a school. Marion Elementary School exceeded growth expectations, and were in the top 20% in the state for growth. Glenwood Elementary School met growth expectations. Foothills Community School met academic growth expectations. Eastfield Global Magnet School met growth expectations and is in the top 50% for the state. East McDowell Middle School achieved the highest growth in the county, and is in the top 5% in the state.

Because of these numbers, at November’s meeting board member Bob Brackett brought up the idea of increasing teacher supplements or giving a one-time bonus. This item was on Monday’s agenda under new business.

“There have been a few misunderstandings,” said Chairman Terry Frank. “I have asked the chairman of the buildings and grounds committee to give us an update on some of the expenses that are coming up. I have also asked the chairman of the finance committee to explain where our money comes from. One thing I do want to say is everybody on the board is adamant that we do the best we can do for our teachers.”

Frank said the board has met with the county commissioners on increasing the supplement from 3% to 6% for teachers to be more in line with Alexander County.

“Without them, the supplement couldn’t be funded, and to bring it up to the level we have to depend on them for that funding,” said Frank. “We have been on a program with the commissioners to help us give 3%. Whether it be a one-time bonus or a supplement increase, I hope it’s a bonus that we give everybody, not just teachers.”

Greg Barksdale, chair of the building and grounds committee, went through the maintenance projects that the board has already committed to. Total amounts for those projects are estimated at $1.4 million. Next he went through proposed maintenance projects which estimated at $2.1 million.

“This is the funds that we have accepted suspension of our lottery funds for five years due to a 15 million grant to building Old Fort Elementary,” Barksdale said.

“To me this a passive aggressive way to do our teachers,” Brackett responded. “I’m going to stand firm that we have a priority list. A one-time bonus for these teachers, I’m not going to back off.”

“We have got money but we have got to decide how much,” Frank said about the possibility of a supplement.

State allocation is based on the average daily membership of students in the school, but with a hold on the state budget, no allocations have been made.

Finance Director Suzanne Rampey gave an overview of the school’s budget and funding. Non-certified teachers get no supplement. Currently, at the 3% supplement, teachers that make $35,000 receive $1,050; teachers that make $45,000 a year receive $1,350; teachers who make $55,000 a year make $1,650. The highest paid teacher with McDowell County Schools makes $63,440 and receives $1,930. These supplements were increased from 2017.

“The cost to increase the supplement by 1 percent is $312,028,” Rampey told the board.

The board voted to table the discussion.

In other business:

» Terry Frank was reelected as chairman of the McDowell County Board of Education. Terry English was reelected as vice chairman. Superintendent Mark Garrett was appointed as the secretary to the board. Charlie Mae Mace was appointed as the administrative assistant to the board. Each board member signed their affirmation of the North Carolina School Board Code of Ethics.

» Garrett read his administrative reports.

» McDowell County Schools media coordinators highlighted their libraries and their functions to the board Monday night.

» The board passed a resolution urging the state to take action to remit civil penalties unconstitutionally withheld from North Carolina’s public schools.

» Garrett updated the board on the progress of Old Fort Elementary School.

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