BY KARISSA MILLER
Following last month’s mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, concerned community members spoke out Monday night at the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education meeting about school safety, equitable education opportunities and other hot-button issues.
Community member Tom Snyder criticized the district for not being transparent about the total cost of the district’s security camera system upgrades, the number of schools involved and the 18-month timeline for implementation.
He also questioned why their readiness to respond to a crisis wasn’t a pressing priority until after the Texas shooting.
“I’m all for security. As far as the schools go, if someone props the door open, they should be fired on the spot. No exceptions. No second chance. No write up. You’re gone,” he said.
Snyder said that as a taxpayer he wants to be informed. He asked the district to be more transparent in the future.
Todd Scott, president of Statesville Branch NAACP, addressed the board about upholding the Leandro Act which aims to give all children the same level of educational opportunities as higher income students.
When the 2022-2023 school year begins, the state budget should include expansion items that set the youngest students on the road to success, he said.
“It must include funding for nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists to address the ongoing and heightened needs of our students,” Scott told the board.
This is a moral and constitutional obligation, he said, encouraging the board members to contact local state representatives on the state budget.
If the government can send money to Ukraine, Scott argued, then it should be able to provide school lunches for students.
Julee Barr, a teacher assistant, said TAs help close the learning gaps and asked the board to look into providing TAs with the state-funded bonus they deserve.
Next, she spoke about why good district teachers are leaving the profession.
“The reason they are leaving is because of pay and respect. They feel like they don’t get respect from the superintendent. They don’t respect from the school board and some of the parents, and they don’t get respect from the students,” Barr said.
She said soon I-SS will not be able to boast that the district has excellent schools.
“Listen to the teachers, not the administration. They are the ones on the front lines. None of you ever talk to the teachers,” Barr said to the school board.
Under normal circumstances, the board does not provide feedback after the public comment period.
However, Chairman Todd Carver, who spoke on behalf of the board, did respond directly to Barr’s comments.
“I hear what you are saying. I don’t want anyone watching this to think we don’t care for our employees because we do,” he said, noting that board members visit schools and do ask teachers about their concerns.
Carver also said the district would look into the bonuses for TAs.
“The $1,000 is not anything the seven of us voted about. That was done on the state level. So, if there is a coding error that took place there and we can fix it on our end, I have reason to believe that we will,” he added.
Chief Finance Officer Adam Steele said that the $1,000 COVID-19 bonus that was referenced in the meeting was a state bonus for teachers or instructional support personnel.
“There was no coding error. The state defined what we could do and did,” Steele said.
After the last meeting, Superintendent Jeff James reached out the state chief finance officer and learned that it wasn’t given to TAs in other districts.
Bonuses and Highlights for 2021-2022 school year:
• Steele said that TAs were issued a $1,000 bonus and $500 bonus that was paid in February 2022 by the state.
• Additionally, the board issued a $2,000 bonus for all full-time employees and $1,000 bonus for part-time employees in December 2021.
• The district has increased the teacher supplement to 7 percent.
• The board also increased the local supplement by 0.5 percent for certified employees and a coaching supplement and band director increase by 5 percent.