BOE discusses funding for nurses, principals

Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

Funding for positions other than teachers for Chilton County Schools was a topic of discussion during the Aug. 16 meeting of the Chilton County Board of Education.

Board President Pam Price raised concern about how nurses for the school system were being funded as part of a discussion on hiring a nurse for Verbena High School.

Price questioned why licensed practical nurses were not considered instead of registered nurses to lower the amount of local funding needed to pay for the positions.

“When we post for nurse positions, it includes both LPNs and RNs,” Superintendent Jason Griffin said. “Whoever the lead nurse and the principal recommend is who we go with.”

Price cited an email from Chief School Financial Officer Alisa Benson stating that the Verbena nurse position would need to be funded out of local tax dollars because the funding for nurses from the state had already been used for other positions. Benson was absent from the meeting.

A nurse for Maplesville High School was also being considered.

“We are at six nurses and four LPNs right now, so I know we keep getting told we don’t have money … This will have to come from local tax dollars or OC (other current expenses),” Price said.

Griffin explained that state funding to the school system pays for six positions and federal funding that became available for school systems because of the COVID pandemic, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding, was used to fund the rest this year. Previously, the other positions were paid with local funding and would have to be again if the state does not increase funding when the ESSER funds are no longer available.

“I have a real concern going against the lead nurse and the school principal, who says this is the most qualified person for my school, based on finances,” Griffin said.

“We have to be able to sustain what we put up,” Price said.

Griffin said the school system was blessed to even have applicants since there is a nationwide shortage of nurses.

When Verbena High School Principal Tammy Hand asked if she could speak on the topic based on a conversation earlier that day with the lead nurse, Price said no.

Director of Teaching and Learning Ashlie Harrison was later asked by Griffin about the COVID-related ESSER funding.

Harrison said she was unaware how much CCS had budgeted for nurses, but application could be made for additional ESSER funds if needed.

There has been discussion at the state level to fully fund nurses, so that each school could have one next year, according to Griffin.

“I think the state legislature sees the need … but I can’t speak for them,” Griffin said.

Both nurses were approved.

Price voted against hiring each of the nurses, stating she saw nothing wrong with the applicants, but was concerned about the funding.

Board Vice President Chris Smith and members Jacqueline Sullivan, Keith Moore, Brad Carter, Diane Calloway and Lori Patterson voted in favor.

The possibility of creating a supplement for principals in order to increase their pay was also discussed. Moore said a supplement would give the principals additional compensation they deserve without committing the school system to a large increase moving forward. He said this also allows for eliminating the supplement if the state decides to increase salaries for principals.  Price agreed and said she had already sent the CSFO an email asking for the possibility of this to be researched. Principals do not receive the raises that the state approves for teachers.

Later, Price offered clarification on how the school system was able to make the after-school program free to students again this year. ESSER funds will be used, but Price said the compensation offered to those working the program was also reduced to decrease the cost. Otherwise, the program would cost more than the funding that was available.

The board also asked for clarification on how the new instructional technology coordinator position in the technology department would be funded.

Technology Director Nic Cardwell explained that there were two positions that had been funded but did not have employees in them. These funds would cover the position.

Sullivan asked if this would be the fourth or fifth position for the department. Cardwell said this would be a third employee of four possible positions.

Price questioned if the remaining funding would be enough to cover the fourth position. (This position currently has no one in it.)

Cardwell said it would be “until the state funds come in that we have applied for.” Griffin clarified that this would be part of a cybersecurity grant the school system has applied for, and there has been discussion at the state level that this funding would be available again next year

This fourth position is not being considered yet.

Price and Sullivan voted against hiring the instructional technology coordinator. Smith and Moore, Carter, Calloway and Patterson voted in favor.