Heath: City schools may get hike in state funds

February 10, 2015

Martinsville City Public Schools would receive approximately $197,000 extra under Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget, Superintendent Pam Heath told the Martinsville School Board at its meeting Monday night. 

The money would go for such things as remedial summer school, special education, reduction of K-3 class sizes, English as a Second Language and early reading intervention, Heath said.

She also said a House of Delegates panel has proposed a 1.5 percent raise for the commonwealth’s portion of a pay raise for teachers and support staff, and $190 million for the Virginia Retirement System, which is $40 million more than the governor proposed. Health also said a Virginia Senate panel has proposed a 1.5 percent raise for the commonwealth’s portion of a pay raise for teachers and up to $187 million for VRS. 

Heath said from information she has received, the governor does not oppose pay raises, even though they were not included in his proposed budget.

All teachers and support staff would not be included under the pay raise proposals, and there would be related local expenses, Heath said. 

She said typically when the commonwealth gave Standards of Quality (SOQ) teachers a raise, MCPS also would give a raise to non-SOQ teachers. The school division staffs beyond what is required under SOQ regulations, division officials have said.

School board Vice Chair Carolyn McCraw said she would be “sad” if some employees got raises but not others. She also said she would like teachers to receive a salary step increase. “We have not been able to give a step increase in some time ... ,” she said. 

No local cost figures were given, and they will have to be determined.

In other business Monday, the school board: 

• Heard a report about MCPS recently being recognized in Richmond for its STEM Pipeline Initiative, especially in the area of robotics. The program received a 2015 Programs That Work award from the Virginia Mathematics & Science Coalition.

Only five school divisions in Virginia received the award (for student programs), Heath has said. “Ours was the only one that addresses all grades and all students,” she added. 

Angilee Downing, MCPS assistant superintendent for instruction, said the program has gotten attention and inquiries because of that.

The MCPS STEM Pipeline is a preK-12 initiative focused on developing the skills and interests of students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pathways. 

MCPS officials did a demonstration about the program for members of the General Assembly on Jan. 20, and that evening the program was honored at a reception at the Library of Virginia.

• Heard a report that at this point, revenues from the MCPS Endowment Gala on Saturday total $27,163. The gala was at New College Institute’s Grand Hall. The theme of the fund-raiser was “That ’70s Gala.” 

The endowment was founded in 2007 to fund innovative, hands-on learning activities in the city schools that would not otherwise be possible in the budget. It is a component fund of the Martinsville Area Community Foundation, and donations are tax-deductible.

• Approved the appointments of these substitutes: Lauryn Arrington, Nicole Arthur, Reginald Eldridge, Christopher Green, Jackie Harris, Lakeisha Law, Sheryl Preston, Susan Rudd, Benjamine Sharpe and Latasha Vega. 

• Approved the resignation of Trista Grey.

• Approved the retirements of teachers Alice Penn and Merilyn Bremner at the end of 2014/2015 school year. 

During a time for public comment, Steven Jones of Parkview Avenue, who said he formerly taught for MCPS, suggested that the school division ask The Harvest Foundation for funds to give school workers a $5,000 bonus and for funds to build a gymnasium for Martinsville High School.

“The ... gym (at Martinsville Middle School) is not safe and it’s old,” he said. He added that, in his opinion, the Harvest Foundation reneged on a plan announced several years ago. According to a previous Bulletin article, that plan called for development of an 80,000-square-foot indoor sports arena and field house at the corner of Fayette and Market streets in uptown Martinsville. 

Jones also asked the school board, “Are you making a concerted effort to hire minority teachers? ... School kids have got to see somebody that looks like them to move forward,” he said.

He also cited the need for entrepreneurial education for children 4-18 years old, the need to keep schools open during the summer for education and recreation, and the need for more college scholarships for athletes at Martinsville High School. 

Also during the meeting, board Chairman Robert Williams remembered and praised Jim Johnson, former Martinsville School Board member and chairman. Johnson died Dec. 26. Johnson, who served 18 years on the school board, “contributed greatly to our community and school system,” Williams said.

Editor’s note: More coverage of Monday’s school board meeting is planned in Wednesday’s Bulletin. 


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