School board slashes po­si­tions to fund pay raises for FY2018

The Kent Island Bay Times - - News - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­

CENTREVILLE — Queen Anne’s County Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Greg Pilewski an­nounced May 24 the school board’s col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the lo­cal teach­ers union have left the sys­tem with a $1.5 mil­lion short­fall for the com­ing year.

“... we are de­voted to our em­ploy­ees and rec­og­nize the need for salary ad­just­ments at $1.97 mil­lion dol­lars. As col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing nears the end of the ne­go­ti­a­tion process we stand firm on our com­mit­ment to our em­ploy­ees,” Pilewski wrote in a let­ter to par­ents, guardians and em­ploy­ees.

He con­tin­ued, “To im­ple­ment our pro­posed Fis­cal Year (FY) 18 op­er­at­ing bud­get, with salary in­creases a top pri­or­ity, we cur­rently have a $1,500,000 mil­lion dol­lar (sic) fund­ing gap to meet the over­all needs of our school sys­tem. In­crease cost in health­care (sic) for our cur­rent and re­tired em­ploy­ees ($776,000) and in­crease (sic) bus trans­porta­tion costs ($398,450) have cre­ated some unique chal­lenges for this year.”

To elim­i­nate the gap, Pilewski said the school board would elim­i­nate five cen­tral of­fice po­si­tions and one school­based ad­min­is­tra­tor (sav­ing $572,970), re­place all ele­men­tary me­dia spe­cial­ists with me­dia as­sis­tants/para ed­u­ca­tors (sav­ing $264,413) and not hire the four new po­si­tions they had pro­posed (sav­ing $250,000). They would also al­lo­cate “an­tic­i­pated at­tri­tion funds” to meet sys­tem needs ($400,000).

Af­fected em­ploy­ees at the cen­tral of­fice will be re­as­signed to school-based po­si­tions and me­dia spe­cial­ists as­signed to va­cant teach­ing po­si­tions, Pilewski wrote.

The plan to re­place ele­men­tary me­dia spe­cial­ists im­me­di­ately drew pub­lic out­cry, in­clud­ing a flurry of so­cial me­dia posts, a pub­lic rally in Centreville on Tues­day, May 30, and calls to the county com­mis­sion­ers seek­ing fund­ing to save them.

The County Com­mis­sion­ers re­sponded to pub­lic con­cern in a let­ter stat­ing, “We share your con­cern over the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion’s (BOE) bud­get and the elim­i­na­tion of the me­dia spe­cial­ist po­si­tions. Please be aware that the Com­mis­sion­ers do not ap­prove, de­ter­mine, or in­flu­ence the al­lo­ca­tions of the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. In this case, we were ab­so­lutely un­aware that this de­ci­sion had been made.”

Karen Fields, president of the Queen Anne’s County Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, wrote the com­mis­sion­ers, urg­ing them to fully fund the QACPS bud­get re­quest.

“While I ap­plaud your fund­ing to ex­pand the pub­lic li­brary,” said Fields, “I find it ironic you will not fund a QACPS bud­get that will sup­port me­dia spe­cial­ists in our eight ele­men­tary schools.”

Fields con­tin­ued, “Me­dia spe­cial­ists pro­vide a unique learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for our youngest stu­dents as they be­gin their for­mal in­ter­ac­tion with books and on­line learn­ing that will set the stage for a life­time of learn­ing.”

The same let­ter from com­mis­sion­ers out­lined re­cent county fund­ing for schools, “Although the school sys­tem added only one stu­dent this year, their bud­get was in­creased by $1.3 mil­lion over the year be­fore. That bud­get was in­creased $1.3 mil­lion over the prior year. Ad­di­tion­ally, in the last 6 years the County has av­er­aged $1.45 mil­lion above Main­te­nance of Ef­fort (the amount we are re­quired by the state to pay per pupil) in BOE fund­ing.”

The county’s fis­cal 2018 bud­get was ap­proved May 23 af­ter nu­mer­ous work­shops and hear­ings.

“Never once dur­ing these bud­get hear­ings or any bud­get work­shops with the BOE did any warn­ing of re­mov­ing me­dia spe­cial­ists come up,” com­mis­sion­ers said.

The com­mis­sion­ers wrote, “Even more sur­pris­ing to us on Tues­day, May 23, the day be­fore Mr. Pilewski’s let­ter was sent, he at­tended the Com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing with a re­quest to trans­fer $599,000 of their $1.2 mil fund bal­ance to cover cap­i­tal costs in­clud­ing $30,000 for band uni­forms .... If the BOE can save $1.2 mil from their yearly bud­get, they should most def­i­nitely be able to fund these po­si­tions from the money al­lo­cated to them.”

Although a mat­ter of pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, the school board de­clined the news­pa­per’s re­quest last week to iden­tify the other po­si­tions cut. One, the news­pa­per learned, was the Fa­cil­i­ta­tor of Dig­i­tal Teach­ing and Learn­ing that Pilewski touted in the meet­ing with the Queen Anne’s County Cham­ber of Com­merce ear­lier this school year.

Of the school sys­tem’s $90 mil­lion bud­get, $55 mil­lion is sup­plied by the county.

The com­mis­sion­ers have en­cour­aged those with con­cerns to ad­dress school board mem­bers and Pilewski.

Editor An­gela Price also con­trib­uted to this re­port.


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