Recent addition to central office indicates improvement in Danville school system's finances

June 11, 2004|HERB BROCK

The recent filling of a new central office position is just one indication that the budget picture for the Danville school district has improved considerably in recent months.

It appears now that the Danville Board of Education also is in a position to rehire all certified and classified personnel and restore five classroom teaching slots and at least four of five technology resource teaching posts that were tentatively trimmed from staff allocations in March. Also, the board will have enough money to create at least one more school staff position in the area of special education.

But while the financial health of the district seems to be rosier, Superintendent Bob Rowland cautions that there are still a few thorns with which the board must deal - not the least of which is the continuing failure of the now out-of-session General Assembly to adopt a state budget.

On Wednesday Rowland announced that Danville High School principal Angela Johnson had been selected as school improvement coordinator for academic achievement, a post created by the board in March to oversee efforts by the district and its five schools to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Education Act. The position was advertised and several people applied, but Rowland was given the option by the board to hire a current employee, he said.


Johnson was hired at her current salary

Johnson was hired for the new post at her current salary at DHS - $78,080 a year - but that and the salaries of all other 150 or so certified personnel and also classified personnel will be adjusted at the board's June 28 meeting, where it will adopt new salary schedules for the July 1, 2004, through June 30, 2005, fiscal year.

The district's ability to fund a new central office position reflects a brighter budget picture that will affect more than central office.

Rowland said that he will recommend to the board at its June 28 meeting that it restore the technology resource positions at Danville High School, Bate Middle School and Hogsett and Jennie Rogers elementary schools; the certified person serving at a TRT at Toliver Elementary School has been transferred to a reading coach position, leaving the TRT post vacant as well as unfunded. However, Rowland indicated that there is a good chance that the Toliver position also will be restored.

In addition, Rowland will recommend that at least one school position - that of special education facilitator - be created and filled, to comply with federal requirements governing special education programs.

The five TRT positions and one classroom teaching position at each of the five schools had been temporarily cut when Rowland presented to the board his staff allocation plan for the 2004-05 school year. In addition, Rowland also notified all 40 or so non-tenured teachers that their contracts for next school year might not be renewed. Both moves were based on state revenue shortfalls and continuing clouds hovering over the state budget early in the spring. In addition, Rowland stressed that he is always conservative in making his early staff allocation and contract plans.

But the five classroom teaching positions were restored by the board several weeks ago, and the contracts of all teachers wanting to return to the Danville school district have been renewed, he said.

"What we have been dealing with have been positions, not personnel," said Rowland. "Even when the TRT positions were temporarily cut, the people holding the positions were not going to lose their jobs. They were going to work somewhere in a certified position in the district; the question was, would it be as TRTs.

Rowland says new position will not cost anyone a job

Referring to concerns of a couple of district residents relayed to him by a reporter, Rowland said the creation of the central office post recently filled by Johnson did not take money away from salaries for any certified or classified personnel or cost anyone a job.

"No one lost his or her job or any of their salary because of this new position," he said.

Rowland said the main source of the district's improved budget situation is the better-than-expected condition of its contingency fund, which includes carryover money. When the board started planning the budget for the coming fiscal year early in the spring, the contingency fund was projected to have $1.7 million; now there is $2 million in the fund and the amount may hit $2.3 million, the amount it had this current fiscal year, according to district financial officer Patsy Clevenger.

"We had $2.3 million in the fund this year but were expecting a big fall-off," said Clevenger, noting that the fund is used to pay for salary increases and some special education positions, among other things. "But slightly increasing local revenues have improved the situation."

But Rowland said the district's money worries aren't entirely over.

"We don't have a huge surplus or anything of the kind," he said. "What we have going into the next school year is essentially what we had this past year. With conservative planning, we're able to keep all our personnel, afford some slight raises mandated to us by the state and create a couple of new positions.

"And we've had to do and plan all this at a time when the state's revenue are still on the short end and without a state budget," he said.

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