BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Board of Education's Long-Range Planning Committee heard reports this week designed to help members -- and, eventually, the full board and the community -- create a three-year strategic plan for the county school system.
The committee met Wednesday at the system's Central Office and heard reports concerning enrollment, teacher salaries, and programming.
Board Chairman Roger Jones organized the committee with the intent of developing material for what he said will later be a full board workshop and public hearings throughout the community leading to the desired three-year plan.
Serving on the committee along with Jones are board members Tommy Cobble and Nathan Brown. However, Jones has encouraged all board members to attend committee meetings as they are able to do so.
On Wednesday, board members Deborah Johnson and Kathy Austin were also present, along with Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk, County Schools Transportation Director Clark Justis, High School Supervisor Wayland Seaton, and K-8 Supervisors Debra Boles and Yhona Jones.
Kirk presented the county school system enrollment numbers in several formats, including average daily attendance for each county school for the past 10 years.
The total system-wide average is 7,109 students over that past 10 years.
The current year's average is 6,967 students.
"I think that our student population is relatively stable, but there has been a slight decrease," Kirk reported.
Wednesday's presentation also included pupil-to-teacher ratios for elementary and middle schools. These numbers are largely affected by the state's classroom size requirements, Kirk noted.
The 2011-2012 system-wide average for kindergarten through 3rd grade was 18.1 students per teacher; for 4th through 6th, the average was 21.6 per teacher; and for 7th and 8th, the average was 24.3 per teacher.
These ratios have remained fairly stable as well, Kirk noted.
Additional presentations included staffing patterns.
Including librarians, speech therapists, guidance counselors, federal positions and all instructional positions, the number of positions in the entire county school system have been as follows:
* 562 for the 2008-2009 school year;
* 563 for the 2009-2010 school year;
* 563 for the 2010-2011 school year;
* 566 for the 2011-2012 school year; and,
* 563 for the 2012-2013 school year.
SALARY DATA CLARIFIED
Kirk also provided the board with teacher salary numbers that she said should be an accurate representation of their pay, as the figures come from both the Tennessee Department of Education website and the Tennessee Education Association's report.
The director presented these numbers in response to a document Johnson presented at the board's last workshop.
Johnson's document cited an average teacher salary of $48,000 for the Greene County School System, an average that was higher than the average salary the document reported for teachers in the Hamblen, Washington and Grainger county school systems.
However, the average salary based on Kirk's information for Greene County teachers is $42,924, which is about $600 less than the average for Hamblen and Washington counties and $1,197 more than for Grainger County.
In addition, according to Kirk's presentation, the Greene County School System's teachers earn less than teachers in the school systems of Hamblen, Washington and Grainger counties in most categories when salary schedules are compared based on teacher education and experience.
"The averages at the top [of the salary scale] aren't as objective, but the salary schedules at the bottom [of the salary scale] are an objective way to look at salaries," Kirk said.
The board also heard programming reports from Debra Boles, Yhona Jones and Wayland Seaton.
Seaton emphasized what he said is the link between teacher salaries and ACT scores, noting that municipal school systems pay more and therefore often retain the teachers with the best certifications and practices.
Additionally, Seaton presented the five "career pathways" currently under development by a joint committee of the Greeneville and Greene County school systems.
These pathways, he explained, will restructure electives so that students will choose a career pathway (such as for health science or for manufacturing) and take courses that will support that selection.
Boles and Yhona Jones presented requests and "wishes" for programming (the way in which the system presents curriculum and provides professional development).
These included ongoing use of reading specialists, continuation of academic coaches, and the placement of a certified mathematics coach to go into struggling schools to coach teachers for two to three weeks at a time.
Johnson questioned the value of such coaches, saying that she has not found them to be of aid in her own teaching career. Johnson is currently a professor at Tusculum College, where she teaches education courses.
Kirk, however, noted that such coaches are being widely used as a part of the new professional development standards for "ongoing and imbedded" instruction and aid for teachers.
Boles and Yhona Jones also asked to see the school system:
* hire only certified middle school teachers (although they noted the difficulty in finding and retaining such teachers);
* hold summer tutoring camps;
* have additional curriculum posted on the school system website, and
* provide proper scheduling and materials to match anticipated state changes to curriculum.
Most of these requests, they said, are the direct result of the new, more stringent academic standards that are about to be put into effect statewide.