By mtjulietintern

Request for 4 percent pay hike now goes to Wilson Commission

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Mickey Hall, Wilson County Schools deputy director, discusses the district’s fiscal year 2017-2018 needs assessment list Monday during the school board work session. The school board voted to include teachers and bus drivers pay raises and new high school funding on its needs assessment list that will go to the Wilson County Commission.

The Wilson County school board Monday approved its proposed new fiscal year budget relative to expenditures, as well as its new fiscal year needs assessment, which includes teacher raises.

“The reason we presented just the expenditure side of the general purpose school fund budget is because we don’t close our books until Friday, June 30 – that’s our fiscal year end. That’s when we’ll close our books and we’ll get our actual numbers in and show the revenue and fund balance side of our budget,” said Mickey Hall, Wilson County Schools deputy director.

Hall said expenses were relative to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more.

The group approved its needs assessment list, which will be presented to the Wilson County budget and education committees. Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and a 4 percent raise for teachers.

“The growth they’re estimating coming into Middle Tennessee is expected to grow quicker than the last 25 years. So, we will double quicker than 25 years. They’re estimating our county to double by 2040,” Hall said.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

“Right now, based on the bids we’re hearing out on the market are roughly $200 (per square feet) in pure construction costs,” said Hall, who said early plans call for a 395,000-square-foot school. He said 40 percent of that cost would go toward design fees, inspection fees, infrastructure and other expenses to equip the school.

Hall noted Collierville built its latest school, which fits 2,000 students, for about the same price after it underestimated its cost. He also noted the price would likely increase in future years.

A four percent salary raise for county teachers also appeared on the needs list, which would cost about $3.2 million. Board member Wayne McNeese spearheaded the push for increased salaries after the district has experienced its highest levels of academic success in recent years.

The assessment also included a recommendation from Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow, who suggested a $2 raise for bus drivers, approximately $708,000, which includes benefits.

The request is an attempt to address the district’s bus driver shortage. Issues previously raised surrounding the district’s bus driver shortage included the split-shift format that drivers adhere to, along with a lack of respect from students and parents, inconsistency in handling reports of incidents and driver pay.

A three-year digital transformation plan is also included in the needs assessment.

“One thing I need everybody to understand about our digital conversion plan is we got to look at the academic outcomes for our kids and how it’s going to improve those and, in our opinion, probably get more kids to college,” Hall said.

The plan totals $15 million and Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright noted the district’s last textbook adoption for math cost around $2 million.

The district’s digital conversion plan has been discussed in various forms for several years with the goal of putting a device in each student’s hands.

Wright has highlighted several positive aspects of digital conversion, which included: the ability to provide immediate feedback to students, teachers and parents; creating a 24/7 learning environment for students based on access and educational content staying current, accessible and relevant.

She said the technology would benefit students who do not attend college after high schools, noting nearly all jobs utilize some form of technology.

Hall said the price not only includes devices, but infrastructure improvements.

The Wilson County budget and education committees will discuss and take action on the requested funding as they continue budget meetings next month.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com