published Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Cleveland Schools proposes 2 percent raises

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    Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools

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The Cleveland City Council is expected to review the proposed school system budget March 25.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland City Schools would like to give all of its employees -- teachers and supporting staff — a 2 percent raise.

On Wednesday, the school board approved the measure, which is included in the proposed 2013-14 Cleveland City Schools budget, in a 6-0 vote.

The money for the proposed salary bump comes from a state-funded 1.5 percent salary increase supplemented by overall revenue growth, education officials said.

The decision to share the extra money with all school employees instead of using it for a pay-for-performance bonus program for eligible teachers was the right choice, said Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of Cleveland City Schools.

"[Pay-for-performance has] never worked anywhere it's been implemented, and we're going to hesitate doing it at this time as well until they can come up with a scenario that is fair to all teachers," Ringstaff said. "Right now I'm not a fan of it, and neither has been the school board so far."

Brenda Carson, business manager for the school system, said officials have "always given the same raise across the board to all employees. It really helps employee morale that way, with everybody getting the same raise."

The proposed budget amounts to $40.5 million, almost 3 percent more than the 2012-13 budget. Ringstaff said the financial staff had to make a lot of tough decisions, especially with mostly flat revenue for the fourth year in a row.

"A lot of people think there's a lot of fat in [our budget], but there is not," said board member Murl Dirksen, stating that the board takes a hard look at saving money wherever it can, from phone services to janitorial services. "I mean we look at everything to see where money can be saved."

Ringstaff said the budget also was designed to be very flexible, enabling the system to weather possible decreases in funding in relation to the federal sequester. This is mostly from not funding positions solely based on federal programming, he said.

"When you start tying people into programs and then the programs get cut, then you've got to cut people and that gets dangerous," Ringstaff said.

Three new positions also will be funded in the proposed budget, including a school resource officer, an English as a second language teacher and a culinary arts instructor.

Renovations to E.L. Ross and Yates Primary elementary schools also are called for in the coming year.

Officials also discussed needs not addressed in the proposed budget, including the addition of one or two positions to the school system's IT department and classroom technology boosts.

Ringstaff said current funding has allowed the system to maintain its classroom technology but not to grow it.

"Technology is no longer an add-on," he said. "It's a way of life."

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