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WS/FCS makes initial budget request for $13.9 million in additional funding

WS/FCS makes initial budget request for $13.9 million in additional funding
May 20
15:37 2020

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education is asking the county for an additional $13.9 million to update textbooks and address safety and security concerns in schools across the district. WS/FCS Superintendent Dr. Angela P. Hairston made the request for additional funding while presenting the 2020-2021 budget proposal last week during the regular briefing of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. 

The entire proposed budget totals $616 million with the county covering 27%, which equals about $155 million. According to Dr. Hairston, the additional funding will be used to meet the district’s newly adopted goals. $12 million will be used to purchase new digital textbooks for grades K-12 ELA (English Language Arts) and Math. 

“We know that great teachers are needed in the classrooms, but also great teachers need a structure,” Hairston said. “It is important that we provide the guidance relative to improving student achievement, more rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, growth, and attention to what has to happen once teachers are in the classroom. We also know to support this instructional framework, we must have materials and resources.” 

Hairston said while she understands that funding for textbooks and materials is provided by the state, they have fallen short in meeting those needs so they’re coming to the county to help meet the needs of the students. “I feel our citizens and parents expect us to close the gap and we’re asking for your help to close the gap,” Hairston said. She mentioned the last time the district adopted new ELA or English textbooks for grades K-5 was 2002. New textbooks haven’t been adopted for middle and high schools since 2007. 

New K-5 math materials were purchased in 2010.  “Class sets” and “digital resources” for middle and high schools were purchased in 2012 and 2016, but there hasn’t been full adoption of new math materiala since 2002.

“We don’t want to pay teachers more, then send them to classrooms with fewer materials and resources to be successful,” Hairston continued. “We’ve purchased various digital resources that can help teachers, but the whole concept of textbooks that are aligned with instruction, it has been many, many years since we’ve been able to do that and that has caused a bit of a shortfall in what we have to offer children.” 

Hairston said the district decided to go with digital textbooks to address the long-term impacts the COVID-19 pandemic could have on education. 

$1.6 million of the additional funding request will fund the creation of security associate positions at 36 middle and high schools across the district. When discussing the new positions, Hairston said the unarmed security associates will work as a buffer between students and law enforcement. One of the major functions of the positions will be to decriminalize and deescalate situations involving students. 

“One of the areas I’m always concerned about … when we don’t have robust preventative measures, then we continue to have situations where children run into law enforcement in a negative way. And we must work to ensure that middle school behavior is not always criminalized,” Hairston said. “Law enforcement officers are official police officers. They must abide by oath and their duties and responsibilities, but we need a security person between that SRO and that administrator to build relationships, to ensure our campuses are safe.”

The school board is also requesting $406,702 to increase salaries for classified employees. Classified employees are identified as all “non-licensed positions” within the district. This includes teachers’ assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria personnel, maintenance workers, custodians, technology specialists, and several other positions. Classified workers were not included in the quarter-cent sales tax increase for teacher supplements approved last November. 

Following the budget presentation made by Hairston and Andrea Gillus, WS/FCS chief financial officer, on Thursday, May 14, the board of commissioners had the opportunity to ask questions. Commissioner Don Martin raised questions about some of the numbers, while others asked questions about the security associate position and if the school board had been in contact with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, who recently signed a new contract with the county to expand SRO services throughout the district. 

The board of commissioners is expected to make a decision on the proposed education budget in coming weeks. Virtual meetings are held every Thursday at 2 p.m. Meetings can be viewed on the county’s website or WSTV 13.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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