Larry Putnam

Larry Putnam

As has become an annual tradition, the Burke County Board of Education ended its yearly meeting schedule with an extension for its top employee.

Burke County Superintendent Larry Putnam was awarded a one-year contract addition at the final school board meeting of 2018-19 on Tuesday afternoon at Morganton’s Olive Hill Resource Center. The board has given Putnam an extra year at its June meeting for the last several years with the intent to keep his contract whole.

The decision at Tuesday’s meeting was a unanimous 7-0 vote.

“The board did, in our planning retreat at the end of this year, conduct the superintendent’s evaluation,” said board chairman Randy Burns before the vote. “Dr. Putnam received extremely high marks from the board of education. We were very pleased with all the hard work by his administration that had tangible benefits to our students.”

Burns said the board feels that good leadership and stability at central office are essential to the school system’s continued success, and believes that Putnam will continue to provide those.

The vote extends the contract to June 30, 2023, permits Putnam to attend state and national education leadership conferences, and allows him to continue the retirement-based compensation provisions in his contract another year until ’23.

After the vote, Putnam thanked the entire BCPS staff for working for the school system’s students.

Year-end resolution

BCPS Finance Officer Keith Lawson presented a year-end budget resolution to the board, which also passed unanimously. The school system’s final 2018-19 budget equaled $119,171,419, an increase of 3.9 percent from $114,675,542 in 2017-18.

The largest year-over-year increase came from contracted services ($7,184,163 in ’17-18 to $8,106,499 in ’18-19, an increase of $922,336 or 12.8 percent), which Lawson said mainly was attributed to the addition of contracted physical, occupational and speech therapy services. Burns said the fact that the state only funds exceptional children programs up to 12.75 percent while Burke County is identified at around 15 to 16 percent adds to that total.

Salaries and benefits rose $3,933,601 (4.5 percent) from $86,864,165 in ’17-18 to $90,797,766 in ’18-19, while most other categories remained nearly flat or decreased year-over-year.

The school system only used $34,984 of its $2,687,322 beginning fund balance for an estimated fund balance of $2,652,338 for June 30. Lawson compared that to a family using just $50 of its savings for an entire year.

Board meeting dates for ’19-20

After receiving a first draft of potential 2019-20 school board meeting dates at last week’s work session, the board voted to approve a finalized list of meeting dates at Tuesday’s meeting.

All but three of the board’s regular work sessions and board meetings will take place at 6 p.m. at the Olive Hill Resource Center on back-to-back Mondays. These include Aug. 12 and 19, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, March 30 and April 6.

The Feb. 3 regular meeting will be preceded by a work session on Tuesday, Jan. 28, the May 11 meeting will follow a district strategic planning session from May 4-5, and the June 15 work session will be followed by the final regular meeting of the year at noon on Thursday, June 25.

An additional alternative meeting date, if needed, has been scheduled from March 9.

The District 7 meeting at Hickory City Schools will be from 3:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, and the N.C. School Boards Association’s annual conference will take place in Greensboro from Nov. 18-20.

Second Step program

After a presentation by Shirley Fore, BCPS assistant director of exceptional children, at last week’s work session, the board voted to upgrade materials for the Second Step program.

The program promotes social-emotional learning to support students and their mental health.

The program costs $35,406 for elementary grades and $12,495 for middle grades, but totals $43,110.90 with a 10 percent discount of $4,790.10 for BCPS.

For the 2018-19 school year, Fore presented mental health data showing BCPS counselors and social workers completed 115 suicide risk screenings — 30 in elementary, 61 in middle and 24 in high schools. A total of 101 students served in the Burke Alternative to Suspension program and 76 truancy charges were filed by attendance counselors.

Teacher bus driver pay

The board approved a recommendation from Kim Rudisill, the BCPS director of human resources, to increase the pay of teachers who also drive school buses.

Before, teacher bus drivers only made $13.24 per hour. The increase is expected to raise bus driver pay for teachers to $15.34 per hour, the same rate paid to beginning bus drivers.

Personnel report

A request from board member Seth Hunt Jr. at last week’s work session moved the latest BCPS personnel report from the consent agenda to an action item. The report passed unanimously without discussion at Tuesday’s meeting.

Lunch price increase

A 10-cent increase on lunch prices for elementary students from $2.50 to $2.60, and on middle and high grades from $2.75 to $2.85 passed in the consent agenda.

Justin Epley can be reached at or 828-432-8943.

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