IW approves additional $206K to schools to hire teachers

Published 2:26 pm Saturday, September 23, 2017

Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to authorize the transfer of $68,680 from Isle of Wight County Schools’ administration, attendance and health budget to its instruction budget, and to re-appropriate up to $206,040 in unspent carryover funds to the division as needed for the hiring of seven additional teachers for the school year.

The board approved the transfer followwwing a request by Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton on behalf of the school board, citing an unanticipated student population boom at both of the county’s high schools, but mostly at Smithfield and in ninth grade.

“In the northern end of the county, we’re almost at capacity for class sizes,” Thornton said. “We have been the last couple of hears in the high 20s [for average class size.] We would love to be around the 21 to 24 range. When we had 38 students enter ninth grade at Smithfield High School, that’s a big problem.”

According to Thornton, 103 new students had registered for the Fall semester at Smithfield, 87 of which had come in from outside the county, 13 from private schools in the county and three who were previously homeschooled. However, some also withdrew since last Spring, giving the school a net increase of 73. Windsor High School received at least 37 more students than what the division had initially projected.

“Last year in eighth grade we had 450 students between the two middle schools, so we projected 450 to enter ninth grade,” Thornton explained. “We now have 518.”

The additional funds will be combined with additional money the division expects to receive from the state once it submits its population data to the Department of Education on Sept. 30. The money will be used to hire one additional English teacher, one social studies teacher, one Spanish teacher, one physical education teacher, one earth sciences teacher and two math teachers, all for Smithfield High School, each with an average of 15 years experience and a salary of $68,680. Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of gifted services, community and media relations, said the reason that the new hires will only be for Smithfield is because Windsor’s population increase was more evenly spread out across the four grade levels, whereas Smithfield had over 30 in ninth grade alone.

“There are a few classes at WHS with high numbers, but the number of sections at SHS with 28, 29 or over 30 students far exceeds the number at WHS,” Briggs said. “We had to focus on the highest priority, which at this time is SHS.”

In other business, the supervisors voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Town of Windsor for the construction of sidewalks on Shiloh Drive and to approve an EMS safe harbor provision in the county code.

Per the terms of the MOU, the town will fund the entirety of the project’s local contribution, but the county would provide the use of their staff to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation. The county will also be tasked with negotiating with VDOT for a potential cost-sharing agreement to lessen the amount of locally contributed funds needed.

The safe harbor provision will allow the county’s volunteer EMS squads to submit insurance requests rather than bill county residents directly for transportation services, while pursuing hard collections for out-of-county residents.

The supervisors also discussed the county’s current debt, which is projected to peak in 2020, but will drop every year after if no additional funds are borrowed. The county’s water fund also continues to operate with greater expenditures than income, having paid out $9.1 million by the end of fiscal year 2016-2017 to maintain the county’s water system but having collected only $5.2 million from water and sewer bills. To keep the fund in the black, the board approved an operating transfer of $4.7 million last year.

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice said that the main problem with the county’s water fund is that there aren’t enough users to balance out the cost of maintaining the system.