Kingsport BOE may cut elementary Spanish teachers

Rick Wagner • Apr 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — No hablas español en la escuela primaria más?

A proposal to cut six elementary school Spanish teaching positions from the proposed 2009-10 Kingsport City Schools budget isn’t sitting well with at least one Board of Education member.

BOE member Pat Turner lamented the proposal to cut six related arts Spanish teachers from the elementary schools, at a savings of $343,200 but in a draft budget that is running $1.4 million short on revenues compared to projected expenditures — $59.5 million compared to $58.1 million.

“I just hate to give these (elementary) Spanish teachers up,” Turner said, pointing out that they would remain in the middle schools’ related arts curriculum as well as in the high school offerings.

The BOE is set to vote on the budget at a called meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Field House Alumni Hall at Dobyns-Bennett High School and then present the budget to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

BOE President Susan Lodal said if the Spanish positions are left in the budget request, the question then is what to cut to offset that expense.

Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller said the board is all but certain to request an increase in funding, with the only question being how much. The city has given the school system a flat $8.7 million since 2005-06 for operations, while the debt service or capital improvement appropriation has fallen from about $7.9 million that year to $3.4 million for the current year ending June 30, Director of Finance David Frye said.

Lodal said some elementary schools in progressive districts offer four or five languages.

BOE member Ron George suggested that virtual classes may be used to make up the loss of the teachers or to supplement them with instruction in other languages, while BOE Vice President Randy Montgomery and Kitzmiller said if the system wants to keep elementary Spanish, more oversight and planning — meaning possibly another half a position — may be needed to make it more effective.

In changes that would add a net of $418,400 to the budget, the largest reductions are $228,800 by cutting four high school teacher positions, which Kitzmiller said in effect would be absorbed elsewhere in the budget; $343,200 in cutting the six related arts elementary positions; and $160,000 in Central Office personnel cuts.

On the plus side, included in the proposal is $300,000 for a non-traditional high school program, $200,000 to replace the phone system, $350,000 for a new network phone switch, and $160,000 for two additional buses.

However, Kitzmiller said the phone and switch expenses likely could be switched over to one-time capital expenses, which means the city would not be required to continue funding like amounts every year as part of maintenance of effort requirements.

The other $1 million is for general operational increases, Kitzmiller said, ranging from utility bill increases to step increases for teachers.

The board also continued to review its capital improvement projects as listed in a draft form. Projects for this fiscal year include $700,000 for resurfacing and revamping the D-B parking lot, $970,000 for buying property around schools and maybe for a new Central Office, $650,000 for the Sevier Middle band room and storage expansion, and $280,000 for furnishing John Adams Elementary to open this fall. Funding sources for that $2.8 million in projects are $1.5 million in general obligation bonds, $720,000 in school fund money, and $58,000 from Hawkins County.

The only public comment at Monday’s meeting, which was set up for community input at the beginning and end, was from Carrie Upshaw, a parent volunteer and candidate in the May 19 school board election.

Upshaw recalled how Sevier Middle School recently got to use auditorium seats from the old V.O. Dobbins Community Center the city was tearing down. She then suggested the board publicize needs and a “wish list” it has so people in the public with resources or ideas can come forward.

Turner is not seeking re-election. Seeking two seats on the board are incumbent Ron George, Upshaw, Susan Bishop, Cheryl Harvey and John Hall.

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