(Dec. 6, 2013) Representatives from the county’s 14 public schools named competitive salaries for teachers and funding for new technology their top priorities for the 2014-2015 school year budget at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Worcester County Board of Education.
The tone was positive at the annual public budget input meeting, where board members said the effects of the economic slump that began around 2008 are fading.
“We all know it’s been a rather lean couple of years. I do think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train coming for us,” Board President Bob Rothermel said.
Across the board, the schools’ first concern was drawing top-notch teachers through competitive salaries and benefits packages.
“Providing a salary increase will help Worcester County Public Schools retain and recruit the very best people … to educate our most important asset, which is all of our children,” said Sanji Ramnarain representing Showell Elementary School.
The schools also agreed on their second priority, to boost funding for technology in the classroom.
“Providing this technology will help prepare students for college and careers,” said Jeanice Dolan speaking for Ocean City Elementary School.
“It is everywhere in our society,” Ramnarain said.
Parent Christina Hulslander asked the board to carefully consider how it proceeds with its technology upgrades, proposing technology-leasing programs as one option.
“It is a way that we can stay current and always have the most current item without having to constantly reinvest and recommit,” she said.
Other concerns included keeping classroom sizes small — ideally, less than 20 students, — replacing worn equipment such as tables, chairs and projectors and maintaining funding for instructional materials.
School-specific requests included a new gym floor for Berlin Intermediate School, new tables for Pocomoke Middle School’s cafeteria, new gymnasium bleachers for Stephen Decatur High School and two vehicle lifts for Worcester Technical High School’s auto stop.
“We’re going to do the best we can,” board member Sara Thompson said. “We won’t be able to fund everything, but, hopefully, the two most important items — the salaries and the technology — we will be able to get.”
The Board of Education will develop its 2014-2015 school year budget between now and Jan. 21. The board will then review and adopt the budget before presenting it to the Worcester County Commissioners on March 4.
The board is slated to adopt its school year 2014-2015 budget at its June 17 meeting, after the commissioners adopt their budget.