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INDEPENDENCE — Pay increases were once again the top request from the Grayson County Education Association during the first public hearing on the school division’s 2012-13 budget Monday night.
GCEA President Arnold Hash was one of only two speakers during the hearing. He said that, while he knows “times are lean,” he urged the board to try and find some money for pay increases for county staff.
“We’ve got to do something for our staff here in the county,” Hash told the board. “If you find a magic hole where there’s a million dollars that you aren’t using, I would like to see that going towards salaries.”
Hash noted that teachers have gone four years in a row without an increase, while support staff is going on six years without any adjustments to their pay.
On top of salary increases, Hash also asked the board to consider paying for technology classes for support staff and teachers.
While there is an array of technology available to be used in the classroom, Hash said it’s useless if support staff aren’t trained to use it.
Though money is expected to be tight, Hash urged the school board to take a stand against the board of supervisors and ask for the money needed to adequately fund the school division.
Hash said other school districts are going to their respective boards and asking for much more than minimum funding.
“I feel that Grayson County needs to do that,” Hash continued. “We have always been asking for level funding or just a little bit above. It’s time to tell these [supervisors] that are looking over our county that we need money to adequately fund Grayson County schools.”
Hash continued to say that too many teachers are still spending money out of their pockets for supplies and that the school system should provide the money to take care of children.
“I really want to see this happen,” Hash said. “I would like to see stuff in our county being funded the way that it needs to be, especially in areas like textbooks. If we don’t have supplies, we can’t teach the children.”
Other school districts are buying iPads for their students and pre-loading text books on them. Hash said he would rather see money go towards raises to keep good educators in Grayson.
“I say give them at least a cost-of-living-adjustment,” Hash added. “Gas is going up… groceries are going up… electricity is going up… everybody’s going backwards. I’m coming here pleading and begging the school board to look at [raises] during the budget process.”
Amy Donnely, president of the Grayson Highlands PTO, also spoke briefly during the public hearing.
Donnely said she knew this budget year promised to be “especially hard” and that she didn’t envy the board’s situation.
While there are many difficult decisions ahead, Donnely said she knew the board would have to weigh wants against needs and essentials against non-essentials.
While Donnely realized not all wants and needs could be met, she said resources are limited and that some things will have to be sacrificed over others.
“An investment in our future is essential if we are to thrive,” Donnely said, referring to investing in the future for Grayson’s children.
“As you decide between these [options], make sure you are making the wisest investments,” she continued. “If we have to give up a newer parking lot... for textbooks, so be it,” she said referring to some of the school’s textbooks that are decades old.
“Ask yourself: does this benefit the students of our county... does this directly affect their education?” she said.
Donnely finished by asking the board to approach every decision with thoughtfulness and prayer.
Hearing no further comments, the board closed the public hearing.
The school board has scheduled two budget work sessions, on Feb. 27 and March 5.
Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. in the boardroom in the Grayson County Courthouse and are open to the public, though public comments will not be taken.