Plan could bring smaller class sizes, teacher bonus

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News 12 at 11 o'clock/Tuesday May 27, 2014
As the school year comes to a close, students are leaving their desks empty, heading home for the summer.

But school board members are taking their seats prepping for big changes next school year.

"For the first time in years, we are getting more money from the state than we have in the past," said Mike Sleeper, a Columbia County School Board member.

Sleeper says the plan is to put the extra money to work directly for students and teachers.

"We're going to right around hire eighty-one new teachers for next year," he explained. "And we can afford to give a one percent, one time pay bonus to all these teachers."

Extra pay is something teachers in Richmond County might also enjoy as the school board's looking into only having four furlough days next school year, compared to the nine they had this year.

Columbia County county parents might also notice fewer students in the classroom this fall.

"First, fourth, and fifth grades will all be at or below state maximum class size," Sleeper said. "And all of our core classes for all of our high school students are going to be below the state maximums."

That means fewer than 35 in each class--guaranteed.

A hot topic of debate in Tuesday's meeting is the county's proposal to get rid of paraprofessionals in order to make room in the budget for more new teachers.

"With local funds, we add parapro's to our classrooms. It isn't done in a lot of other system but that's a complete local expense," said Sleeper.

But even though classrooms may lose an extra teacher, Sleeper says they'll gain so much more.

"There are fewer students in your classroom, which means as a student, you get more one on one time with your teacher," Sleeper said.

And paraprofessionals will not lose their jobs. Instead, they'll be absorbed into schools as instructional specials who will be there to give more support to teachers.

All of this in the tentative budget was unanimously approved in Tuesday's meeting, but there's one more meeting on June 10 before it will all be official.

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