City school brass rolls out wish list for next fiscal year

By Thomas Wilson


   Reading is fundamental.
   And it is a subject that school officials hope Elizabethton's elementary schools are able to fundamentally improve as state achievement scores and federal laws demand results.
   "East Side is deficient in value-added reading scores," said Randy Lacy, principal of East Side. "Our achievement scores were the highest in the system, but our value-added scores are low."
   The city's elementary schools notched above average to exemplary scores in the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program 2002 test scores in reading, language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. However, the schools were graded below average in reading and deficient in language arts on the value-added assessment TCAP scores.
   School principals and administrators presented their wish lists to the Elizabethton Board of Education at a workshop session Tuesday night held to begin preliminary discussions of the 2003-2004 budget.
   Principals John Hutchins of Harold McCormick and Randy Lacy of East Side both requested the creation of a "reading specialist" position to screen reading deficiencies in students.
   Principal Rick Wilson of West Side also said he wanted to establish a reading specialist for students, but did not request a new teaching position be created for that purpose. The reading specialist's role would be to support classroom instruction, assess each student's performance, and provide resources to gauge reading skills and potential problems.
   The federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation requires students to read at the grade level in which they are enrolled by 3rd grade.
   The irony lies in the city's academic achievement numbers versus the value-added assessment. The median reading comprehension performance grade of East Side 3rd graders was an 88, according to 2002 TCAP test results.
   "We are doing really well in these other areas, but we are deficient in the language arts area," said Director of Schools Dr. Judy Blevins. "We have poured over our testing to find out how we can be so high in so many areas and deficient in this one area."
   The state Department of Education evaluates TCAP scores by comparing information about Tennessee students with students from across the nation concerning performance on specific objectives and academic skills based on the grade span, or value-added standards.
   "We are not giving (students) a full year's growth," said Lacy denoting the movement of student reading progress from one grade level to the next.
   Board member Judy Richardson also submitted a proposal for a 5-cent increase on hourly pay scale rates for the system's classified personnel, including teacher assistants, secretaries and custodians. The pay raise factored out for all employees was approximately $13,000, according to Richardson, who passionately championed the issue.
   "I am asking, begging that we do this," said Richardson.
   Sam Greenwell, representing the Elizabethton Education Association, also presented a request for a 5-percent pay raise for the system's teachers and paraprofessional employees.
   Each school also submitted their capital outlay requests.
   Lacy requested the replacement of carpet with floor tile (estimated approximate cost $30,000) and replacement of window panes for 62 broken or partially damaged windows ($1,500).
   "There are places where you can stick your finger all the way through the hole," said Lacy. "We don't need that at East Side."
   Hutchins requested a canopy constructed over the walkway between the old gymnasium and new gym ($21,000 for materials).
   Wilson submitted a request for the replacement of all 148 school lockers ($11,988).
   Principal Regina Cates of T.A. Dugger Junior High submitted requests for a non-certified full-time library assistant required for accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools at a projected annual pay scale of $14,500. Cates' wish list also included a part-time custodian ($6,200), the replacement of floor tiles for the main hallways ($20,000), and sanding and refinishing the gymnasium floor ($11,000).
   Principal Edwin Alexander said Elizabethton High School needs new cabinets in the Consumer Science room ($6,500).
   "Termites have eaten up those cabinets," said Alexander, who also submitted a request to purchase new textbooks totaling $88,000.
   The workshop was the first for the city schools' 2003-2004 budget development process. A workshop setting budget priorities is planned for early February with final budget approval by the Board of Education expected in May.