The Morgan County Board of Education held its second public hearing for on the proposed operating budget for the 2019 Fiscal Year (FY) prior to the regular board meeting Monday, July 16. The budget hearing outlined a proposed millage rate set at 14.512, total expenditures budgeted at $33,032,869, and total revenue budgeted at $32,381,859.
Superintendent James Woodard noted, “Of the contiguous systems and all the systems in our RESA [Regional Educational Service Agency], we have the third lowest millage rate.”
In a subsequent meeting after hearing committee reports, the board approved the millage rate, FY19 budget, personnel list for 27 new teachers, financial report, 2018-2019 Foothills Intergovernmental Agreement, and declaration of surplus items from the elementary school.
Plans for increased safety and security are being implemented for the upcoming year with crisis notification apps and a safety resource officer at every school. Additionally, more positions will be opened at the career academy, and the Teacher Retirement System will increase from 16.81 to 20.9 percent. The school system will also see its lowest full-time enrollment – 3,006 – since the 2001-2002 academic year.
“From what we saw three years ago when we did the master planning on the new high school and middle school, it was a trend of the population with more retirees moving into Morgan County rather than families,” Woodard shared. “In recent meetings, I’ve heard some data presentations regarding smaller families as well, but mainly it’s the retirement.”
Eric Joyce asked if lower enrollment hurts the school system. Woodard explained that changes in class sizes from year to year presents a challenge. When the average class size goes down, everybody feels good. But the next year might see an increase bringing the average up by three students per class for example. Managing fluctuating class sizes is much more challenging in a small school system versus a larger system.
“It’s hard for us,” Woodard stated, “because if we’ve got a certain number of teachers at the high school, but need more teachers at the primary school, it’s hard to shift the high school teacher to the primary school [or vice versa].”
The board also heard from new Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Community Relations Jay Homan who officially started as of July 1. Homan shared that there will be a new mentor teacher program this year. As for school nutrition, while some procedures will change, the meal prices will remain the same as the past year.
The school system is also focused on closing the achievement gap and will implement its first aspiring leader academy with ten teacher leaders participating. Recent data shows how Morgan County schools rank compared to RESA and the state testing standards. Third through eighth grades have 16 different tests in which Morgan County schools are ahead of RESA in 14 tests and above the state average in all 16. In addition, those grades have 77 percent of students at or above their reading level. High schools have eight tests in which Morgan County High School is ahead of RESA and above the state in three tests with its percentage of students at or above reading level increasing from 78 to 84 percent over the past two years.
“[The high school is] making progress in the other five tests,” stated Chip Meyer, assessment and accountability coordinator.