Columbia County school system officials unofficially decided Tuesday that they’ll likely add more than 80 new teachers and decrease class sizes next school year.
School board members agreed to add 81 teachers into next year’s budget at a study session before Tuesday’s semi-monthly school board meeting.
“We’ll be adding quite a few new positions,” Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway said as she proposed amendments to the 2014-2015 budget.
The proposed $182.7 million budget is set to be approved on June 10.
The additional teachers, Carraway said, will be used to accommodate school system growth and to reduce class sizes to or below state-mandated maximums in first, fourth and fifth grades and in the core high school classes. Sixteen of the teachers are needed for the high school change from six to seven-period days.
“The good thing is the goal of this board has always been to reduce class sizes as soon as we could,” Carraway said. “It’s an improvement for students. It’s an improvement for teachers.”
The budget is a 2.9 percent increase over the 2013-2014 $177.5 budget. Carraway said she expects to have about $36 million left over from the current budget to carry over. Carraway said she expects having a $3.2 million surplus after a 15 percent fund balance of the proposed 2014-15 budget.
The proposed budget also includes a 1 percent one-time pay increase for all school system personnel, likely to come as a 13th paycheck in mid-January. Employees haven’t received a raise since 2009 and were required to take furlough days in 2010 and 2011. Some of the principals and assistant principals also will receive pay adjustments to bring them in line with the pay schedules of similar county school systems.
One of the items being sliced from the budget is the middle school golf program. The cut will save $4,800. Carraway said 28 pupils – 20 boys and eight girls – participate in the golf program county-wide. Cutting tennis programs also was considered. The idea was abandoned, Carraway said, because 149 pupils – 72 girls and 77 boys – participate in middle school tennis programs.
At the meeting following the budget study session, board members approved a new principal for Columbia Middle School. Eli Putnam, the school’s former assistant principal, was named as its leader to replace Steven Cummings, who took over as principal at Lakeside High School.