Board approves school budget increase

Connect Academy receives Board endorsement for stand-alone school status

CARTHAGE – The Moore County Board of Education met on Monday, April 11 with the preliminary 2022-23 budget the focus of the agenda.

The board approved a significant budget increase of $7,689,500 for the 2022-23 school year – helped along by federal emergency funds – for a total budget request of $39,539,500 to be presented to the County Commissioners for approval. 

“You might say that a 24% increase in local funding is a big ask, and it is a back ask,” said board member David Hensley. “But in addition to paying our people properly after a decade plus of not doing that and trying to reduce our class sizes, I want to point out that over the last four years that the physical dollar increase to Moore County Schools had been 2.4% over four years and before those four years it was a decrease. Forget about keeping up with the rate of inflation, it did not even keep up with the growth of enrollment. Moore County Schools would have been doing more for less. Those are the reasons why I support this budget.”

The budget includes an 8% supplement for certified staff, administrative salary increases to match state increase level, 2.5% certified teacher salary pay increase to match state increase level, classified staff salary pay increase to $15/hour minimum or 2.5% increase, reduced class sizes for fourth and fifth grade, counselor position at Crain’s Creek, decompression of classified salary scale and increased rates for utility, supplies and materials, capital outlay expansion and digital learning funds due to inflation.

“As we’ve noted in discussions before, this budget articulates an investment in our students, our staff and in continuing to have a great education system so we also support and have a vibrant economy and great community,” said interim Superintendent, Dr. Tim Locklair. “This budget provides for a base budget to provide for the services we currently are providing as well as addressing your priorities to continue to support learning and teaching impact and support our employees.”

The next step is for the budget to be presented to the Board of Commissioners by Moore County Schools. The County Manager will also present a recommended budget before the Board of Commissioners and then a County Public Hearing will be held which will then be followed by a vote on whether or not to adopt the budget.

The board also gave unanimous approval to endorse Connect! Virtual Academy as a stand-alone school for the 2022-23 school year. Connect! Virtual Academy is a fully-online, remote K-12 alternate schooling option for Moore County students.

“We hope to get 500 or 600 students,” said Dr. Mike Metcalf, Interim Chief Officer for Academics and Student Support Services. “Right now we have 527 that are participating and the survey date indicates the community is very interested in us continuing that program.”

The board also approved the sale of the Old Aberdeen Primary School to Drain the Swamp, LLC and gave its approval to a design services agreement with SfL+a Architects for the modernization of school gymnasium after the item was tabled at last month’s meeting due to concerns raised by the board.

Board members Hensley and Stacey Caldwell met with and observed the review committee following the tabling and, after finding no issues, endorsed the recommendation by staff to go with SfL+a Architects.

Finally, after deliberation, the board decided that a prior vote from a December 13, 2021 closed session on whether to approve covering the defense cost for board members Stacey Caldwell, Libby Carter and Ed Dennison for the lawsuit captioned Pratte vs. Caldwell in the Middle District Court of North Carolina, Case #121-CV-10 should be brought back into open session for the sake of transparency.

The board then approved the one-time, $5,000 deductible cost that was required by the liability coverage agreement that the board has with the North Carolina School Board’s Trust that provides legal services when a board member or employee is sued and the trust determines there is a need for legal coverage. After the deductible, the trust covers all remaining legal fees for all parties involved.

“There are four entities being sued: The individuals plus the board,” said board member Robert Levy. “If only the board was sued, it would be the same amount of money. So we are not expending any additional amounts of money for the other people being sued.”

The Moore County Board of Education will next meet on May 2.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal

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