School Board strikes down alternative learning program

Mecklenburg’s FY24 budget will include a seven percent increase to the base salary of all MCPS employees. This increase is projected to cost $3,322,222; the state will supply a total of $1,693,950 from the Compensation Supplement leaving a total of $1,628,272 that the school board must request from the Board of Supervisors.

The main difference between the FY24 budget presented Monday night and the one presented last Thursday is that the $166,000 requested for the alternative learning program was taken off. The proposed $166,000 would have been used to hire a full-time counselor, a full-time paraprofessional, to change a lead teacher to an assistant principal, and to attain the Edgenuity to Teacher Pro Version.

Incoming Superintendent Dr. Worner explained last meeting that the school already uses the Edgenuity platform; it provides a space where students can move at their own pace. The Teacher Pro Version would provide a teacher that the students can access at any point in time to answer questions and give the student assistance. This is different from the teacher who is presenting lessons.

Mrs. Bailey stated that after speaking with her Supervisors counterpart, she feels that the board should consider putting the $166,000 back into the proposed budget; she relayed that the Supervisors were impressed by Deputy King’s presentation at the February meeting. Bailey also explained that, “many times we don’t do things because we don’t think we’re going to get the money, and we think, ‘Well, if they don’t give it to us then they don’t give it to us, but at least we asked for it.’”

She was also impressed by the idea of community service projects and was encouraged by the community partners that want to invest time, manpower, and their resources into the program.

Bailey suggested the school board add the ALP item back to the budget, with conditions attached such as asking for more accountability from the department through oversight, reports, and feedback. Though the changes the board made to the ALP have been in place for an entire semester, the board has yet to hear any feedback or receive any data/reports on how the changes are working. They don’t know if the changes already put in place have been fruitful.

Mr. Edwards argued that the board is already paying for feedback that they are not receiving, so it doesn’t make sense to sink more money into a program that’s not doing its job. “Nobody minds spending five hundred to six hundred thousand if it saves the children, but to jump into a program that has not been proven…it’s just not working.” He stated that if the ALP item is put back into the budget he would not vote.

Mrs. Garner also expressed issue with adding the ALP item back into the FY24 budget. She asked, “Where are you going to put them? Nobody thinks about that; everybody says we want this program, but we have nowhere to put them! They don’t want them at the high school and they don’t want them at Bluestone because the kids are going there…you can’t increase a program if you don’t have the space to increase it.”

She continued, “I would say leave it out this year, find a place for them, and gradually work toward what you want. Everybody wants to go from here to here with nothing in-between. And you’ve got to gradually work it there.”

Mr. Edward motioned to approve the $92,605,965 total FY24 budget presented Monday night that doesn’t include the $166,000 alternative learning program. Mr. Dunn seconded.

Mrs. Bailey then motioned to amend the budget to include the $166,000 for ALP. Mr. Honeycutt seconded Bailey’s motion to amend the budget.

The board held a vote for the amendment; the motion was denied 5-3. Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Bailey, and Mr. Honeycutt voted for the amendment.

A vote was then held to approve the FY24 budget as presented Monday. The motion carried 7-1. Mr. Smith was the only board member to vote against it.

Superintendent Paul Nichols will take the approved FY24 budget to the Board of Supervisors for approval at their regular meeting on Monday, March 13.