Federal funds keep teachers working

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School divisions in Grayson, Carroll and Galax are benefitting from the federal Education Jobs Fund.

By Staff Reports

Carroll County, Grayson County and Galax educators say federal assistance will keep teachers working.
The federal Education Jobs Fund was signed into law on Aug. 10 and provides $10 billion nationally, with provisions similar to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The purpose is to provide additional funding to states for the support of local teacher salary and related costs at the early childhood, elementary and secondary levels.
It is expected that Virginia will be awarded the funds by Oct. 1.

Grayson County
Employees of Grayson County School System may be reinstated their five lost days of pay after the county was notified it would receive more than a half million dollars in federal funding.
School Division Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas told the board Sept. 13 that the school system will receive $546,000 from the federal government.
During the budget workshops earlier this year, the school board voted to reduce all personnel’s contracts by five days — reducing everyone’s pay.
To help offset the loss of five school days, the county opted to increase the school day to make up the additional instruction time required.
When the news came that the school division would be receiving the federal monies, Thomas said one of the first ideas brought to the table was to reinstate those five days for all personnel.
According to Thomas, it would take approximately $312,000 to reinstate those days.
“We talked a lot about being smart in how we use these funds,” Thomas told the board Monday night. “Right now we’re expecting a tough year budget-wise for next year as well and we don’t want to be in the same spot as we were earlier this year.”
In the discussions with the school administration, Thomas said they felt the wisest use of the money would be to ask the board to consider reinstating those days and carry the rest of the money into next year.
Because it was not an action item on this month's agenda, Thomas said the board could not consider the request at the September meeting, but that she expected to bring a full proposal to next month’s regular meeting.
Additionally, if the school board approves the change, it will be required to go before the board of supervisors prior to any official changes because it is a budget item.
Thomas asked school division Director of Instruction and Assessment Stephen Cornett to speak briefly about the process of reinstating those days.
Cornett said currently the school year has 88 day in the first semester and 87 days in the second.
If those five days were added, Cornett said the most advantageous idea would be to add those days on to the second semester – making it a 92 day semester.
“The reasoning is that we miss so many days due to weather in the second semester,” Cornett explained. “This puts us more than likely behind the 88 days, so it is better to have built in more days into the second semester so that we are not hit as badly in inclement weather.”
School Board Member Gary Burris liked the idea, stating, “we need to move as quickly as possible to get their days back.”
Thomas explained again that while the change needed to be made as soon as possible, the board of supervisors would have to approve it, as well, and that the board wouldn’t meet again until Oct. 14.
Bear further explained that the $312,000 would not only add the five days back, but also cover the VRS and group life that would go along with those extra days.
About $234,000 would be left to carry over for next year.
Thomas noted that the funds in question were intended to be used for salaries and benefits and that this direction would certainly meet the requirements of what the federal government intended these funds for.
“I think it’s a good idea to give it back to them,” Burris added. “I think they’re well deserving of it.”
Vice Chairman Shannon Holdaway had only one concern — would the school system be in the same boat next year, trying to making up that $50,000.
While he didn’t know how to divide the money evenly over the next two years, he worried that if the money wasn’t there next year to cover those five days, that would be the first place the board went to cut again.
“We’re hoping with the tax increase in Grayson County that they’ll be able to help us more next year,” Burris added.
Because the school system had already added 12 minutes a day so far this year, Cornett said that time could be “banked” to help off-set the losses for inclement weather that the county anticipates.
Plans would be to revert back to the same schedule as last year once the budget was approved.
Holdaway wondered why the school system wouldn’t keep doing the extra 12 minutes to have even more time available for instruction — at least until the end of the semester.
Thomas said that one issue with the longer days is that when daylight savings time reverts back, there becomes an issue with children getting home near dark and there was a concern for safety.
With no further comments, the board moved on to another topic and will likely take action on the proposal during the October meeting.

Carroll County
Carroll County schools are slated to receive $992,441 from the federal Education Jobs Fund that will be used for salaries, retaining and rehiring teachers and not for materials and supplies, said Tammy Quesenberry, the finance manger for Carroll County Public Schools during Tuesday's school board meeting.
The state applied for the funding and allocated it to each school. Schools heard back on the allocation two weeks ago.
The funds are set to carry over for two years.
Does that mean that the school system can hire people back for two years? School board member Harold Golding asked.
“Well, we haven't let anyone go, so we're in pretty good shape,” Smith answered.
But the board can think about how to best use the money over the next two budget years, he continued, as educators expect to get less funding from the state.
This will help, Smith said.

City of Galax
The Galax school division was notified that it will receive $326,797.
“We're still in the planning stages since we just found out,” said Rebecca Cardwell, assistant superintendent. “We're still looking at the options that would be best and most beneficial for the school division.”
Galax had a balanced budget this school year, which means that “with these funds, we're going to be able to go above and beyond, and our options are there,” said Cardwell.

Staff writers April Wright, Ben Bomberger and Christopher Brooke contributed to this article.