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School board approves salaries, budget

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING – The Humboldt City School Board met on Thursday, July 7 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss salary raises and test scores among other updates regarding Humboldt City Schools.

by Ariel McRae

The Humboldt School Board met to discuss an agenda full of salary raises, budgets and test scores on Thursday, July 7. The board made quick work of a short agenda during the meeting, opting to give the most attention to the partial test score results the Humboldt City Schools received back from the state.

After the roll call indicated all members of the board were present, the board got to work to discuss the most important items on the agenda—a 2-percent raise for all school personnel.

There was a motion to approve the 2022-2023 non-licensed salary scale increase. The state’s budget included a 2-percent raise for non-licensed personnel including aids, custodians, teaching assistants and all those that work within a school setting but are unlicensed. Board member Leon McNeal asked Humboldt City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janice Epperson if 2-percent was the best that they could do. Dr. Epperson informed McNeal that the percentage was what the state provided them with so they had to follow it. The board approved this salary increase unanimously during the vote.

Licensed personnel working within the school system were also given the same statewide salary increase of 2-percent. As answers were already given about the reason for only a 2-percent raise, there was no discussion on this agenda item. It was voted into effect with a 5-0 approval. This raise for both licensed and non-licensed employees will go into effect immediately. Dr. Epperson did let the board know they have been looking into the budget to see if they might have the room later for an additional raise or a bonus, but this is not guaranteed. She is open to ideas for where they could potentially pull more money for an increase in the future.

The food service budget was put to vote last Thursday as well. This budget is for the food served to students and faculty. A motion was made by McNeal and seconded by board member Terry Johnson. There was no discussion in regards to the budget. The food service budget was approved unanimously 5-0 with no nays.

The 2022-2023 School Year Budget was also on the agenda during the school board meeting. In this budget, it listed a 2-percent raise across the board for all personnel within the school system. The motion on this agenda item was made by board member Mark Hodge and seconded by board member Wayne McLemore. As with the previous agenda topics, there was no discussion on this budget either. The vote to approve the school year budget carried.

The main discussion of the meeting was Dr. Epperson’s superintendent’s report. She announced that the summer school and programs were doing extremely well and included pictures within her slides of teachers having fun with their students. There was an end of summer school celebration held on July 6 at East Elementary where it was announced that at-risk students increased their spring assessment goals and high school students completed their credit recovery.

She also informed the board that their bid-winning company they currently hold a contract with for completion of the Stigall Primary School roof should have their materials by July 20. Dr. Epperson explained to the board that because of covid, the building materials have not been available. She told them that if the company had to push back the date again, she would look into canceling their contract and hiring a new company for the job.

The biggest topic of last Thursday’s meeting was the presentation of test scores the Humboldt City Schools had received so far. It was mentioned that the remainder of the scores and results would be received on July 11. In summary, the achievement level of scores mostly returned to pre-pandemic levels. An achievement is what measures a student’s performance at a single point in time while comparing it to the student’s performance to a standard.

TCAP scores for Humboldt City Schools showed improvement from the previous year, with the highest success in English and language arts for fourth graders rising from an 8.2-percent met and exceeded expectations level to a 22.5. This level achievement is expected to continue to rise.

End of Course, or EOC, scores however have declined in the Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School. Students did better in almost every category during the previous year in subjects such as English, algebra and biology. The only scores to improve from 2021 to 2022 were in algebra II coming up from 0 to 5.8-percent met and exceeded and U.S. history coming up from 0 to 9.3-percent met and exceeded expectations.

“This year we are trying to be more proactive than we are reactive. We are going to go in from the jump—from the beginning—addressing those things that we have taken a whole year to analyze,” Dr. Epperson stated about getting to the root cause of why scores are at their current level. “If we are getting a little bit of gain right here and making minimal changes and getting minimal professional development, what is it going to look like next year?”

Dr. Epperson further told the board that moving forward it is important that all areas of the data is analyzed and are equally applying it in their classrooms across the board so there are no students left behind their peers. The main focus is on improving the scores at the high school level.

There was discussion on whether or not teaching should be in accordance to the tests rather than the personal students. Board member Wedley expressed her concerns on whether students are being taught how to test and not just taught to learn the material.

Dr. Epperson agreed and furthered on that by explaining that parents need to be as involved with their child’s education as the teachers and the school systems. Parents need to hold their children accountable and make sure they are doing the legwork with their child to ensure their success. The idea held uniformly across the board was that teachers need to teach and parents need to parent; it has to be teamwork for the betterment of the child.

The meeting concluded with a reminder about the “Back 2 School Book Bash” on Saturday, July 23. The bash will feature the Books From Bikers parade. The event is for HCS students in grades K-6 and will be held on Main Street at 10 a.m. All activities will take place behind the Humboldt Public Library immediately following the parade.

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