Ecker offers '06-'07 wish list

More staff, new programs, pay raises are included

School board given priorities

Plan would quadruple math-resource teachers

September 18, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

If he has his druthers, Superintendent Charles I. Ecker would like to nearly quadruple the number of math resource teachers in elementary and middle school classrooms, expand the gifted and talented program, and pay all employees - from teachers to custodians - enough to keep them from leaving for higher-paying positions in neighboring counties.

"We need to provide intervention services to help those kids [who are struggling academically] get up to par," Ecker said in an interview last week. "We also need additional staff to keep up with the [growing enrollment]. And we need to have a competitive salary scale to retain our existing employees and attract new ones."

Ecker and other school officials laid out recommendations for new programs and services they would like to see in next year's operating budget during a work session last week with school board members.

For fiscal year 2007 starting July 1, school officials are expecting an additional $19 million in state and local funds above what they received for fiscal 2006. The current fiscal year's budget sits at about $264 million.

Ecker's list, which includes hiring nearly 190 employees - including 66 new teachers - would cost the school system more than $29 million, or about $10 million more than school officials expect to have.

Ecker told board members that the information is preliminary and intended to give school board members an idea of what school staff and administrators consider to be priorities.

Hiring 17 math resource teachers for elementary and middle schools would cost about $1.38 million. The system has four math resource teachers at the elementary level, but none for the middle schools.

Expansion of the gifted and talented program is estimated to cost about $160,000. Ecker would like to add a coordinator, an additional full-time resource teacher as well as a half-time resource teacher for the program.

"We have a half-time resource teacher [for the gifted and talented program] at each elementary school, but we need more time," Ecker said. "There are a lot more students that are gifted and talented" who could benefit from the program.

In the coming months, school officials will review the recommendations and determine which will find their way into Ecker's final recommendation to the board in January.

"We've got some work to do" to trim this list, said Christopher Hartlove, the system's budget supervisor. "This is an unfiltered list. Over the next several months, we'll be refining the numbers."

Ecker's list also includes some items that the school system must provide in the next year, such as the continuing expansion of all-day kindergarten. State education officials have required all-day kindergarten for all students by the 2007-2008 school year.

Carroll school officials are implementing the mandate in three phases. The first phase began this year at schools that did not require construction of classrooms. For the second phase next year, Ecker estimates it will cost about $2.8 million to hire about 57 teachers, instructional assistants, media specialists and clerks, as well as custodians.

Ecker's budget also anticipates a 25 percent increase for utilities - largely because of rising fuel costs - as well as medical insurance costs that could spike as much as 20 percent.

Other items on Ecker's list:

$8.5 million for 3 percent pay raises and step increases for teachers.

$1.6 million in additional gas, electric, water and sewerage expenses.

Nearly $200,000 in start-up costs for Ebb Valley Elementary, which is scheduled to open by the 2008-2009 school year in the northeastern part of the county.

Nearly $900,000 to maintain programs, such as the Community Learning and Suspension Service as well as the small learning communities, which are being supported by grants that expire next year.

Thomas G. Hiltz, the school board's vice president, implored Ecker and other administrators to provide "benchmarks comparing us with other school systems" as part of their rationale for new programs and services.

"We need better justifications for additions or changes," he said.

Ecker and other school officials will continue to tweak the list of recommendations during the next few months. Public hearings on the superintendent's budget are expected to be held in February.

The school board will adopt a budget to submit by March 1 to the county government. The county generally determines local funding for the school system in May. The school board would then set the system's budget for fiscal year 2007.

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