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Board braces for school tax project

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A plan aimed at selling Hartselle residents on the idea of paying more property taxes for the funding of a new high school was one of several topics discussed at a recent school board work session.
The board and Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed are working on a timeline leading up to the referendum. The first step will be having the referendum approved by the legislature.
"We know we'll have to have the approval of the state legislature before we can have a referendum on a property tax proposal," Reed told the school board. "I'd like to pre-file a bill and have it ready for consideration when the legislature meets next January. I think the beginning of next school year would be the proper time to be fully organized and get a campaign going. Already, PTO councils have been formed at each school. They will begin meeting in August."
Reed said a campaign committee will be organized with representatives from both inside and outside of the school system. It will be headed by someone who has no direct connection with the schools.
"We'll also publish and distribute a brochure to help get our message across" Reed said. We'll need to set up a speaker's bureau to take the message to civic, church and community groups."
"We need to keep the discussion going over the next few months," board member Dr. Andy Dukes said. "I think we need to have a campaign chairperson in place before the end of summer."
Another subject discussed at the meeting was the salaries and job responsibilities of administrative personnel and teacher supplements.
Reed said he has received a proposal to review and evaluate the salary packages and job descriptions of central office personnel, principals, assistant principals as well as teacher supplements. The cost of the study would be $18,000.
He pointed out that the study would determine how Hartselle compares with other school systems in the area.
"I anticipate that some changes may be needed but no one would suffer a loss in pay or benefits in the year of the change," Reed said "I'd like for the board to put a freeze on supplements until we can determine how to handle them in the future. The figures you're looking at would increase to $25,000 next year."
"Our goal should be to have a uniform and consistent pay structure for all personnel," Dukes said.
"I'd like for you to communicate with those involved that we're looking at a salary study," said board member Jennifer Sittason.
"I've already discussed this with the principals and athletic director," Reed responded.
The board asked Reed to look into how other school systems handle accrued vacation time and catastrophic sick leave.
Reed said based on the current policy, vacation carryover will cost the school system about $100,000 in 2005-06.
"We need to consider putting a cap on the number of days an employee can build up," he pointed out.
He also said he would look at how other school systems handle catastrophic sick leave.
Teacher tenure was another subject aired.
"One of the most important decisions we make is granting tenure to teachers," Dukes said. "I want to make sure that the teacher evaluation process is being done the way we think it should be done. I want to know that the principals are in the classroom doing evaluations."
Reed said he personally observes in the classrooms of non-tenured teachers at least once before they become eligible for tenure consideration.
"We have so many non-tenured teachers," board member Kathy Goodwin said. "If a principal finds that a new teacher is having difficulty he or she should let the teacher know before the end of the second year."
Also, Both Dukes and Sittason expressed support for the implementation of a drama program in Hartselle schools.
Dukes said he was impressed with the performance of the newly formed College Street Players at a recent fundraiser for the restoration of Burleson School and indicated he believes its time to get a classroom drama program started in Hartselle schools.
Sittason said all of the school systems in the Hartselle area offer drama classes.
"I know there's interest here and I think we should start the program at the junior high or elementary level," she said.

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