Editorial

Blytheville School Board, where are your priorities?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Monday night at the Blytheville School Board meeting, a motion was made by Desmond Hammett to give all employees of Blytheville Schools a $300 bonus. The motion did not get a second from any board member and therefore ďdied on the table.Ē This is yet another example of the deep misunderstanding that this board has for its district and its employees. The school board does not understand the needs of the faculty, and the district is suffering for it.

During the meeting Superintendent Richard Atwill stated that when he made the budget for this year, he could not conceive of a way to give the employees a bonus, but that by the March School Board meeting he should have the increased pay scale for next year that was promised when the districtís millage rate was increased after the last election. However, Atwill also stated that there will be $458,834 in declining enrollment funds (DEF) that the district will receive.

He said that in the past substitute teachers have been paid an average of about $300,000 a year out of DEF, which means that would leave approximately $158,000 in DEF. If that money were to be used to give a bonus to all 402 employees, it would amount to approximately $300 per employee.

After some debate, Atwill stated that while he would love to see the employees get a bonus, it was his opinion that while giving a bonus was possible it was not responsible. It was also added that the staff of the district knew of Atwillís opinion on the issue.

So let me get this straight, the district has the money to provide its employees with this bonus, they also know that the public believes that the teachers deserve a raise due to the passage of the millage increase and they think that just because the faculty knows that they probably wonít get a bonus this year, they shouldnít give them one? The logic behind that has to be some of the most ridiculous that I have ever heard.

Full disclosure, my wife does teach at Blytheville Middle School, however, that is not the reason why the board not rewarding this bonus irritates me. Iím not concerned with having an extra $300 in our bank account. What I am concerned about is that the board had an opportunity to reward all employees, not just teachers, for their hard work and dedication within the district, and it would appear the only board member who wants to take that action is Hammett.

I hear a lot about Blytheville Public Schools and how its board and faculty are doing all that they can to improve the district and improve the education quality of its students. It doesnít take a genius to figure out what the majority of the students lack in this area is stability, be it in the home or at school. Now it is not the job of the school to fix studentsí problems at home, but they can solve them in school and the biggest way to invoke stability in a school is by teacher retention.

If the district canít keep teachers who want to work at Blytheville, then it is going to fail. Now granted I have never met a teacher in my lifetime ó and I was raised by a teacher and I am now married to a teacher so Iíve met a few ó who did what they did for the money. Often a person becomes a teacher to help make a difference in this world, but teachers can make a difference at a lot of places so if you donít give them support or incentive to stay with your district, why would you expect them to stay?

This bonus was an opportunity to give a show of good faith to Blytheville Public Schoolsí employees and the board didnít even put it to a vote. What kind of message does that send to your employees when you have the capability to do something good for them and you simply donít do it? It sends a message that the employees are not appreciated and when you get that message over and over again it becomes a problem.

One of the board members at Mondayís meeting stated that the current gym is a good building and has nothing wrong with it. If that is the case why are they spending money on a new gym? I understand that the facility is outdated, but several other buildings within the district are as well, specifically some of the school buildings that tie directly into classrooms. The board also canít seem to agree on where they want to put the new gym.

I think this school board needs to take a look at its priorities. If they would view their staff as the most important resource to students, which they are, and stop squabbling over whether or not the gym should be moved to a different location, maybe things could turn around for the better within the school district.

gwilliams@blythevilecourier.com