Alt school on chopping block

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School board may also cut coaching supplements in half

By Damon Lawrence

The Roane County Board of Education is trying to decide how to make $1.582 million in budget cuts after its request for a 14-cent increase in the property tax rate was refused by the Roane County Commission. 
The board heard a recommendation from Director of Schools Gary Aytes on what cuts to make during a Monday work session.
“Our goal here was two-fold,” Aytes said. “First, protect achievement and, second, to protect our people’s jobs.”


Aytes recommendation includes closing the alternative school at the Midtown Educational Center and cutting academic and coaching pay supplements from $450,000 to $225,000.
“If a coach was making $5,000 a year for coaching now, they’ll make $2,500,” Aytes said. “It will be half.”
Aytes said booster clubs would be allowed to make up the money coaches would be losing because of the cuts.
“If they can, they can do that,” he said. 
Closing the alternative school is expected to save the school system $363,925.
Other cuts recommended by Aytes would be made included driver’s education ($50,000), textbooks ($500,000), capital building projects  ($200,000), college and career readiness  testing ($210,000) and utilities ($33,075).
Aytes is not recommending closing any facilities. The Midtown Educational Center, where the alternative school is located, would remain open.
“We’re not closing MEC,” Board Chairman Rob Jago said. “The facility is still there. It’s still going to be open. It’s still being used for technology and other things. We’re not shutting down a facility.”
Aytes said closing the alternative school would leave two teaching assistants and a half-time secretary without a job.
“Right now we have no openings for those,” he said. “If we have attrition, then they would fill the first available position.”
Jago asked Aytes what will happen to the students who attend the alternative school.
“The ISS students we would take care of in our middle and high schools, using staff in those schools to do the in-school suspension within the school,” he said.
Aytes said the problem would be with the zero-tolerance students.
“We use the alternative school as a second chance for those students,” he said. “Zero tolerance is a year automatic out of school. We might could modify that into nine weeks out of school, where normally we’d put them in MEC.”
Jago expressed some concerns about not having an alternative for suspended students.
“I want to make sure we do all we can with these kids,” he said. 
“I understand that, Mr. Chairman, but we’re here to cut,” Drack Langley responded.
“We’ve been put in a position,” Sam Cox added. “We’ve got to make some hard cuts. This might be one of them.”
There was talk about keeping the alternative school open by cutting $385,000 earmarked for math coaches and literacy leaders.
The math coaches and literacy leaders would then be paid out of the system’s instructional reserves.
A vote on the cuts could happen at Thursday’s regular board meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the central office building on Bluff Road in Kingston.
The $210,000 the school system has budgeted for six school resource officers was on the list of potential cuts, but wasn’t mentioned during Monday’s discussion.
“It was on there, but it was not a recommendation,” Aytes said. “We can’t do that. We can’t sacrifice the safety of our kids.”