A recent failing grade issued to the Williamsburg County School District under the new federal accountability system flies in the face of last week’s SAT scores. During the School District Board of Trustees September 24, meeting Williamsburg County School District Superintendent Yvonne Jefferson-Barnes made the announcement. "We are pleased to say that our school district has demonstrated a 37 point gain in the performance of our students," said Barnes. She also noted that the ACT performance level improved.
The school district has made gains for the past three years. The latest SAT increase is one of the highest in the Pee Dee.
In other business, some board members sought direction for fielding questions regarding the district's pay structure. In July 2011, the district moved from a twice a month pay period to once a month. Board Member Joe Lee said teachers wanting to know why they have to be paid once a month are constantly calling him. "Are we in any better financial shape or position to address this need or not," said Lee to Williamsburg County School District Finance Director Christen Greene who had just finished reporting that August expenditures exceeded revenues. Greene responded by requesting the board attend a financial workshop. Lee continued. "I understand, you know, the money coming in and you’re not able to - I understand all of that. I don't know if everybody - all the teachers, or custodians or the assistants and all aren't quite understanding it." Lee asked if there was any way possible to have a discussion or a meeting with everyone so that they can be explained why the pay structure is set up like it is. Charles Garner echoed Lee's quandary, adding that maybe there was a breakdown in communication. "I have explained to them over and over why and I also explained as soon as we are able to go back to this because I know how it is," said Garner. "I have worked in the system for so long where you were paid once a month and as soon as we're financially able to do so, we're going to do so, so hang in there with us." According to Greene, several meetings have been conducted throughout the district, as well as emails and mailed notices explaining the pay schedule. "But we'll do it again," said Greene.
The purpose of the move was and is based on a low fund balance. "The funds come in from the state, usually the 22nd or 23rd of the month," said Greene in a later interview. "And the district does not have enough money in its fund balance to pay twice a month, at this point." Reverting back to the twice a month system will require a more stable fund balance of around $5 million said Greene. The fund balance is currently at approximately $3.7 million.
To make matters more confusing, a survey regarding employee payment has brought about skepticism. Greene said a survey asked whether the employee would prefer an increase in pay, or prefer to be paid once a month. Greene said the survey, which first targeted the secretaries, was considered a great idea and therefore she was directed to extend the survey to the schools. The question by board members was if the employee is already being paid once a month why ask the question. Superintendent Jefferson-Barnes attempted to explain. "If we happen to receive additional funds and those funds would impact whether or not you could get a check that would be safe, would you prefer still to get paid once a month, ok, or would you wish to have an increase," said Jefferson-Barnes. Jefferson-Barnes' answer incited further discussion with the board agreeing to attend a finance workshop.