Monday, the McDowell County Board of Education voted to extend Superintendent Mark Garrett’s contract and give him a raise in salary.

Board vice-chair Terry English made a motion to extend Garrett’s contract until June 30, 2023. The motion was approved unanimously.

Board member Patrick Ellis then read a prepared statement recommending a salary increase for the head educator of McDowell County Schools: “According to the board’s review of the successful 2018-2019 accountability results from McDowell County Schools and in order to recognize the merits of Superintendent Mark Garrett, I move to increase his annual salary from $133,620 to $140,000. This adjustment will be more in line with salaries of superintendents in other LEA’s that are close to us. May the adjustment become retroactive from July 1, 2019 as with teacher and other school employees after the Senate legislature approves the budget.”

The motion was seconded, but before a vote was called, board member Bob Brackett had questions about increasing teacher supplements.

“I’m not opposed to letting Mark Garrett have a raise, but who made it possible for our grades to be above a D right now in growth?” Brackett asked the board. “We have over $6 million in our ADM account right now. We are raising salaries for our administrative assistants and its coming out of our ADM, I’m not questioning that, but I think we should make a bonus for our teachers. What is wrong with giving them a one-time bonus?”

Chair Terry Frank reminded Brackett that the discussion was about the superintendent’s contract and not teacher contracts.

“We don’t want to talk about it, that’s the thing,” said Brackett. “It’s hard to get this board to talk about it.”

“We don’t control teacher’s salaries,” said Frank.

“We do control what we give them as a supplement and we control if we want to give them a one or one and a half percent bonus, we can do that,” Brackett said back. “The funds are available. It’s there.”

Executive Administrative Assistant Brian Oliver said if the schools were to give a one-time bonus at 1% for all teachers, the cost would be $312,000.

“Does that scare you?” asked Brackett. “What is wrong with us taking out some money to spend on our teachers, the people who really deserve it Mr. Frank, Mr. English?”

“No one is saying the teachers don’t deserve it but right now we are discussing the superintendent’s contract,” English responded. “That’s what we should draw our attention. Mr. Chairman I call a vote on this matter.”

“Then we will discuss it here or in the parking lot,” said Brackett. “But, we will do it.”

The motion to approve his salary was approved. The motion states that his salary will not be increased until the state budget is approved.

In other business:

» Three Foothills Community School (FCS) students were honored for their first-, second- and third-place wins in the 2019 Thomas Wolfe Student Writing Competition. They winners were Sophia Laughter (first), Hannah Wilson (second), and Faith Kraak (third).

» Jennifer Morgan was honored with for receiving the Karen W. Ponder Leadership Award.

» FCS students talked about their food insecurity projects during the curriculum feature. They shared personal stories and statistics from within McDowell County.

» Teacher of the Year representative Renata Crawley shared with the board the monarch migration that West Marion Elementary does every year. In honor of the Day of the Dead, she showed a video about how the butterflies descend into Mexico during the holiday. Students shared statistics about Mexico. Board members were given milkweed seeds to plant.

» During Garrett’s administrative reports, he received word from one of Coach Richard Laney’s caregivers who said his last wish was to go to a football game. He was able to go to the homecoming game and thanked everyone who made it special for him.

» The board voted three votes in favor of and five votes opposing a field trip request from West McDowell Middle School. The field trip, requested by Emily Elkins and Deeana Ray, was a trip to Hawaii in July 2021 to support educational topics in science, social studies and geography, according to documents. The trip was to provide student opportunities to see volcanoes, viewing the night sky from an observatory, visit a working plantation, and learn about the culture and history of Hawaii, visit major landmarks and experience the impact of events at Pearl Harbor. The eight-day trip would cost each student approximately $4,000. The board did not approve the trip.

» Garrett updated the board on the project at Old Fort Elementary. Steel and roofing work continue and all buildings are expected to have this part completed by February 2020, giving builders five months to complete the rest of the project. The contractors have assured Garrett that they will be substantially completed by the end of July.

» The last mobile classroom unit remaining in McDowell County Schools is at Eastfield Global Magnet School used for art and music. During an inspection, it was decided it was in really bad shape, Garrett said. The students and classroom has been moved inside of the school building. The administration recommended the unit be made for purchase, and if no interest, be available for demolition. A motion was made to dispose of the surplus property and approved unanimously.

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