Rowan-Salisbury Schools examines funding as renewal plans proceed

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 25, 2019

SALISBURY — Before moving into hours of discussion about consolidation and redistricting, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education took a pause during its retreat this week to hear an update on the financial side of the district’s renewal status.

This summer, Rowan-Salisbury Schools was named the state’s first renewal school district, granting it systemwide, charter-like flexibility in terms of curriculum, staffing and more. With no existing models to follow, the district staff has identified needs for professional development, exploration and evaluation across multiple departments.

The system’s chief strategy officer, Andrew Smith, presented financial plans for meeting these needs as the board gathered midweek.

Funding requests would be made to legislators, donors, nonprofit organizations and more, Smith said.

The financial plan for the 2019-20 school year will begin with a request that the system receive “hold harmless” funding levels from the General Assembly, meaning its funding would remain the same or greater than that in the 2018-19 year.

New General Assembly budget provision requests could allow for increases in salaries, school security initiatives, student support and more.

“Those things may fluctuate,” Smith said.

From there, the system will seek $5,000 for each school board member through the General Assembly, grants and donors. The money will facilitate opportunities for board members to visit exemplary or innovative districts.

“The notion is that we believe strongly that you also need professional development in this work, that you can go and learn about innovative solutions and thinking differently about public education,” Smith said.

The money would allow board members to see some of the “latest and greatest models in transforming public education.”

Superintendent Lynn Moody agreed.

“We realized that was a really important piece that has been missing,” Moody told the board. “We put a lot of time and energy in the professional development of teachers and principals, but the board has to govern in a transformation or change differently too. You don’t really have a model to look at. There’s not people that you can ask that are in the same role you’re in.”

But teachers will not be forgotten in the evaluation of renewal expenses. Smith presented plans to fund exploration and development days for lead teachers and teacher-led design teams.

The school system will request funding to make some 50 faculty members 11-month employees and substitute pay for teacher-led development.

Finally, Smith presented plans for the renewal evaluation process, with $300,000 paying for its design as well as the initial and subsequent years of evaluation.

“If we believe we’re going to be a model for the state, then we have to know everything’s working,” he said.

Moody said the system will be submitting these needs to Eric Naisbitt, a policy adviser to state Sen. President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Many legislators had been reaching out to the system, expressing support of the renewal effort and wanting to make sure the system has what it needed to continue successfully, she said.