Board members balk at some staffing changes

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By Molly Haines

An Owen County Elementary School media specialist position will stay intact following Monday’s Owen County Board of Education meeting.
The board discussed budget considerations for the 2012 fiscal year and voted to keep the media specialist position at the elementary school, despite a recommendation from Owen County Superintendent David Raleigh to eliminate the position.
A group of district leaders, which included all the principals, worked on a list of reductions for the 2012 budget.
Raleigh said the group began working in October.
The media specialist’s position was up for elimination after primary and elementary school principals decided having a counselor at both the elementary and primary schools was a better option than having a full-time media specialist at both schools.
Had the board voted to eliminate the OCES media specialist’s position, the Owen County Primary School’s media specialist would have covered both schools.
OCES Principal Marlin Gregg said the school’s media specialist teaches in the classroom; is involved in reading programs and making reading in the school a part of the culture; teaches computer ethics; and is involved in putting projectors together, among other things.
“The media specialist has a budget for technology,” Gregg said. “Anything that goes above and beyond that budget, she has to fund-raise for; and she does an excellent job fund-raising. She also serves as support to the staff.”
Raleigh said next year, fifth-grade students will be moved to the newly opened Maurice Bowling Middle School, leaving only third- and fourth-grade students at OCES.
Owen County Schools Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction Leslie Roberts said a counselor’s position includes teaching character education; teaching components of program reviews, including college and career readiness; provides scheduling guidance and parent support; assists with behavorial issues; and will do administrative duties with principals.
Raleigh said if the board had gone with his recommendation, the OCES media specialist would have been given another position within the district.
Vice-chairman of the board Brian Young made the motion to approve the staffing formula, but to include the OCES media specialist.
Young said during the meeting that he felt a media specialist’s position was just as vital as the counselor’s position, and he could not support eliminating the OCES media specialist’s position.
Board members Stuart Bowling and Dr. Larry Johnson also voted to retain the media specialist.
Board chairman Terry Patterson voted against keeping the media specialist, and board member Brett McDonald abstained from voting.
Patterson, McDonald and Johnson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Bowling declined to comment, and Young declined to add anything further to his comments from Monday’s meeting.
Owen County Schools Finance Officer Sheila Miller said because the board decided to keep the OCES media specialist, deeper cuts were made in other areas.
Several reductions that had been taken off the list were added after the board voted to keep the media specialist — those reductions include a half-hour daily reduction for operators, custodians, mechanic and mechanic’s helper; a 20-day reduction for the enrollment clerk; and a one-hour daily reduction for two front-office positions.
Other cuts include a 10-day reduction for primary and elementary school guidance counselors; a four-day reduction for the middle school counselors; and a 10-day reduction for media specialists at the primary, middle and high schools.
Miller said that in the end, all reductions are left up to the board and that Monday’s decisions can always change.
The board must have a tentative budget passed by May 30.
Raleigh said if financial situations don’t change, next year will look worse than this year, with possible cuts in the teaching and administrative staff.
“If conditions stay the same, we can expect and probably will have to reduce our certified staff,” Raleigh said.