Rock Hill schools want to cut $2.7 million in expenses

Jill Pappas
Jill Pappas

To balance a proposed $141 million operating budget for the upcoming school year Rock Hill officials want to cut $2.7 million in existing expenses.

Administrators presented a $141,673,000 budget Monday to the school board. There is a $2.7 million shortfall as projected revenues are $138,930,000. As proposed there is no increase in school taxes.

The proposed expense cuts fall into four categories:

▪ Personnel and unfilled positions. Some current vacancies will would be eliminated and no existing teachers would be fired, said district Superintendent Kelly Pew. Teachers and staff would be eligible for about a 2-percent pay raise.

The budget calls for hiring four people and contracting for some services, such as translators and technology services, at an estimated cost of $690,000. Not filling some vacant positions would save about $653,000, according to the proposed budget.

Staying within the budget on use of substitute teachers would save the district $300,000.

▪ Programs. Consolidation of the district’s three alternative education programs – The Phoenix Academy, Rebound, and the Renaissance Academy – as well as restructuring of the after-school Challenger academic program are proposed. The weekly cost of the Challenger program would increase by $5. The horticulture program at the Applied Technology Center could also be cut. Program changes would save about $615,000.

▪ Operations. The maintenance staff would work four 10-hour shifts, potentially reducing the amount of overtime. Maintenance contract with firms outside the school district also could be renegotiated. The estimated savings would be about $520,000. Temperatures in district buildings would be increased by a degree, saving the school system $125,000.

▪ School class size. Changing the ratio of teachers to students could save the district $585,000 or nine teaching positions. Pew said the nine positions would be eliminated through teachers moving or retiring. The number of students in some classes could increase by one student, said Rebecca Partlow, the executive director for. personnel.

The ratio varies by grade level. It’s about one teacher to 23 students for elementary classes and one teacher to 25 or 26 students in middle school. In high school, the average is about one teacher per 21 or 22 students, according to Partlow.

Changing the teacher-student ratio concerned several school board members, especially Ann Reid, who noted the district previously had made a commitment to lower teacher-student ratio in kindergarten through third grade.

Board member Jane Sharp was concerned about cutting the horticulture program. School officials said the class has not been offered recently because not enough students wanted to take it. Sharp said there needs to be more discussion on the class, possibly pairing it with the district’s culinary arts program.

Board member Walter Brown was concerned about consolidating the three alternative programs, noting the age differences for the programs and the fact that they are housed at the Flexible Learning Center which also offers adult education. School staff said there are ways to separate the students.

Pew said the changes should not affect the quality of education offered.

No vote was taken Monday but a majority of board members indicated they support the budget as proposed.

Last year, the school board adopted an unbalanced budget – $134.9 million in expenditures and $133.5 million in revenue. The $1.4 million shortfall was slated to come from the district’s reserve fund.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

New director of elementary education named

Jill Pappas, principal at Independence Elementary School, was selected as the district’s new executive director of elementary education. She replaces Rich Melzer, who is to be the executive director of staff development and school choice.

Pappas has been principal at Independence Elementary for the past two years. She also has been an assistant principal at Rosewood Elementary. She came to Rock Hill in the summer of 2012 from the Eagle County School District in Colorado where she was the principal of Red Hill Elementary School from 2009-2012.

Pappas has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in education from Utah State University.