Friday, April 19, 2024

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School board hears early pleas for more county funding for ABSS

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Alamance-Burlington school board members haven’t yet begun their annual slog through the various departmental funding requests in order to establish their county funding priorities and submit a budget request to the commissioners for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.

But that didn’t deter two former candidates who ran unsuccessfully for the county’s board of commissioners and Alamance-Burlington school board from appearing before the school board last week to lobby for more county funding for ABSS in 2023-24.

Former Alamance County commissioner candidate Barry Joyce called on the school board last Monday night to immediately raise the pay for athletic coaches, who he claimed rank dead last in pay among all 115 public school systems in the state.

Barry Joyce
Seneca Rogers

“It’s pretty disgraceful,” Joyce told school board members during the public comments portion of their meeting last week. “I did some research over the last few days, and the Alamance-Burlington school system is the worst-paying school system in the state of North Carolina for coaches. There is no other school system, no matter how poor the county is, that is worse for paying coaches. That’s ridiculous. That’s unheard of.

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“I remember coming before this board 14 years ago and saying how we had the number one paid superintendent in the state,” Joyce continued. “That’s no more. We had the number two assistant superintendents’ pay in the state…We had the number 28 teachers’ pay in the state. But now we are at the bottom. We don’t even have assistant coaches for middle school teams. That’s very dangerous. Guy coaches a girls’ basketball team; kid goes home [and] says, ‘that coach touched me.’ Next thing you know, the coach’s life is ruined; his family’s ruined; he loses his job. If you’re not going to support athletics – when you look at these pay [rates], you’d have to be 25 years in Alamance County as a coach to get where a first-year coach would be at some of these schools. That is utterly ridiculous.”

During their discussions about the county budget request for ABSS in early 2022, school board members had penciled in $100,000 to provide a $225 increase in the county-funded supplement for the 333 athletic coaches, a number of whom are also employed as teachers.

That line item was eventually eliminated from the school system’s budget for 2022-23, as the board honed its spending priorities last spring and put more dollars into other things such as hiring school resource officers at every ABSS school. The Alamance News was told at the time that there’s no set supplement for coaches; instead it varies by sport and season, according to the former chief finance officer for ABSS.

“This needs to be taken care of tonight,” Joyce insisted. “It needs to be retroactive back to the first of the season, and it needs to be done now. A middle school coach works 160 hours, and the starting pay is $600. That’s $2 an hour. We pay our bus drivers $15 an hour, don’t we? But we can’t pay a coach who’s molding these kids lives and spending their time away from their family and their children? This is embarrassing for this county. This needs to be fixed; it’s a serious problem; and I think we need to do something about this now.”

Former two-time school board candidate Seneca Rogers also urged the board to increase its county budget request for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

“I want to appeal to our district staff to be more ambitious with our request to our county commissioners,” Rogers said. He said more funding is needed in order to hire athletic trainers at the seven high schools; hire additional employees in the Exceptional Children’s division to help children with social and emotional needs; and to increase the county-funded supplement that teachers receive on top of their state-funded salaries. “Strong schools make a strong community,” Rogers added, “and let’s do this for all.”

Barry Joyce, a Republican who lives in Burlington, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board of commissioners in 2014 but failed to make it past the spring primary.

Rogers, a Democrat who lives in Graham, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the nonpartisan school board in the 2020 and 2022 general elections.

Neither Joyce nor Rogers has publicly signaled whether he intends to enter either race for 2024.

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