By Paul T. Choate
July 9, 2012. New Watauga County Schools Superintendent David Kafitz addressed the Watauga County Board of Education for the first time in his official capacity on July 9 at the monthly meeting. Valle Crucis School teacher Katie Matthews was honored and several matters were addressed.
The meeting kicked off with Kafitz’s first ever Superintendent Report. He started by thanking the Board for the opportunity to serve in the capacity as Supt.. He went on to praise how welcoming Watauga County has been.
“My family and I have been welcomed with open arms and we appreciate that very, very much, and we look forward to many, many happy years here,” said Kafitz.
Kafitz went on to say he met with Supt. Dick Jones, a former superintendent who was asked to come out of retirement and assume the position on an interim basis after Marty Hemric left for the Supt. position in Wilkes County in December 2011, on June 5, 11 and 15 to begin planning the transition. He then attended the state quarterly superintendents meeting at the Summer Leadership Conference in Asheville. Immediately following his return, he began touring the county schools with Jones on June 20 and 21.
“He showed me around Watauga County and showed me some of the shortcuts between some of the schools,” Kafitz said, causing laughter from the Board and audience members alike.
Jones described his last few weeks since getting settled on June 23 and 24 as “very productive.” He went on to discuss the North Carolina legislature ending their short session for the year and the ramifications of Gov. Bev Purdue’s veto on the state budget being overturned. The legislature did provide a 1.2 percent raise to school employees, add an additional 5 annual leave days and repealed the mandatory state budget reduction.
“Three good things, still not what we want,” said Kafitz.
Kafitz expressed concern over some language in the school calendar; most notably, he was concerned with the fact that even schools such as Watauga County’s — which have a weather waiver — will not be able to start any earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 13. He also expressed concern over the fact that partial days (in the event of a delay) could not be counted as official days.
“The erosion of that language is troublesome,” said Kafitz.
Kafitz later went on to recognize Katie Matthews, a first grade teacher at Valle Crucis School, who was recognized for being named Watauga County Teacher of the Year back in May.
Kafitz’s full Superintendent Report
Kafitz presented Matthews her plaque honoring her as the Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year at the July 9 meeting.
“Really I wish it could hold so many more names than this,” said Matthews, adding how much help she had from others to attain this honor. “I also carry this for every teacher that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and continue to work with, because that is who I learned from the most. So, for all the teachers in Watauga County, I will work very hard to make you proud.”
After school fees & personnel
According to the meeting agenda, “For the fiscal year 2011-12, the after school program had a total expenses of $299,081 and total revenues of $292,922, resulting in a net loss of $6,159. All sites covered their operating expenses except for Bethel, which lost $4,218, and Mabel, which lost $6,600.
The 2012-2013 budget is very similar to last year’s budget but does not include a $1 per hour pay increase for the after school program group leaders. The funds will be redirected to recruit and retain qualified personnel according to the meeting agenda.
As for personnel, the Watauga County Schools personnel advisory committee and each individual school’s advisory committees were approved unanimously. To view all personnel selections, click here.
Pre-K program recommendation
Following discussion of after school and personnel was a PowerPoint presentation outlining the pre-K program recommendation. The program is facing a $204,554 deficit. Funding has also been reduced. The current deficit is projected at $300,603.32. The “Head Start” program funding was cut from $89,680 to $18,000 for the 2012 – 2013 year.
The pre-K program is facing deficits regarding salary as well. Salaries are going up from $701,994.13 to $719,803.82.
Due to financial constraints, pre-K programs will be cut from four county elementary schools. They will remain open at the four schools where students face the most “at-risk” factors.
Students who face the most “at-risk” factors will benefit from allocated funding. Funding was approved for five classes at four sites based on need. Green Valley School, Parkway School and Cove Creek School will receive $91,160 each for 54 students. Hardin Park will receive $182,320 for 36 students.
Board member John Welch posed the question, “Dr. Kafitz, do you think there is a chance of other funds becoming available throughout the year?”
“No sir,” Kafitz responded.
Ly Marze, WCS finance officer, took a few moments to provide budget information. According to Marze, the new starting salary for an entry-level teacher is $30,800 per year. For teacher assistants, their starting salary will be $19,355.
“Although minimal, this 1.2 percent increase is welcomed, as the last state salary increase for employees was in 2008 – 2009,” said Marze. Marze also added that the five annual leave days added must be used by June 30, 2013, and will not roll over to retirement, “so use it or lose it this year.”
WCS Facilities Director Dennis Ray provided an update on facilities — including updates on construction at several of the area elementary schools — as well as an update on Watauga High School’s progress in acquiring LEED certification. For a full list of construction projects, click here.
“Unlike what it says in your book, we ran into a problem,” said Ray. “The Town of Blowing Rock determined that we should have pulled a permit for sidewalks. I have never heard of pulling a permit when you are replacing a sidewalk if you put a new one in, so I am meeting with the inspector tomorrow at 1 p.m. and we will resolve it one way or another so that the bus parking area is available when school starts.”
Ray alluded to problems at Parkway School.
“At the very end of the school year — about five days before we got out — the boiler at Parkway started leaking. We limped it through the end of the school year so we could have hot water and not get shut down by the Health Department. I’ve awarded a contact to Brooks Plumbing & Heating to replace the old boiler,” said Ray, adding that it is a one-for-one exchange and does not require engineering because the same type of boiler is being put back in.
“It’s going to run us about $16,000. It’s going to come out of my budget and I think I can absorb it.”
“And, LEED certification,” Ray said, followed by chuckles from the Board and audience alike. “We’re really making some ground and everybody has been working hard. The emails fly fast and furious. The commissioning team is about ready to finish their report.”
Ray added that he believes they are “almost there,” adding that the only problems were the position of some vents directly over teachers causing decibel levels to be too high.
“Assuming we can solve this, I don’t see a problem with our Aug. 1 deadline. We’re right at gold,” said Ray.
Each project that applies for LEED certification is graded on a 100-point scale and 60 points earns gold certification.
Deborah Miller, Board of Education chairperson, closed open session with a suggestion. She suggested moving public comments and board comments to the beginning of every meeting in the future, “so that we can take advantage of the comments that the public might make before we actually do action on whatever is before us on the agendas.”