By Connie Leinbach
The Hyde County Board of Education on Oct. 7 approved an $11.38 million schools budget that allows for the restoration of two teachers’ aids positions (one for Ocracoke) and a part-time custodian for Ocracoke, but no other personnel.
The art instruction position was not part of Superintendent Dr. Randolph H. Latimore’s budget recommendation.
In a community meeting Oct. 3, he told about 20 teachers and residents that he did not have the revenue to pay for the art position this year.
The art position and two teaching assistant positions were eliminated in the spring when the district learned the Small School Supplemental Funding would be cut from the state education funding package, leaving the district without any formal arts education in both music and art.
Nancy Leach, one of two Ocracoke parents who asked for the reinstatement of the art teacher, told the board that art creation instills pride in children.
“Art is not a frill,” she said.
Cathy Scarborough also noted that art instruction is an important academic component that helps children learn to solve problems. In July, the General Assembly restored $1.7 million for Small School Funding, which funds teacher salaries, though it was about $300,000 less than what Hyde County received in prior years.
Moreover, the NC General Assembly in this year’s budget approved a 7 percent pay raise for teachers across the state though did not fully fund that increase.
“The state pays for an allotment for salaries,” Latimore had said at the community meeting. “If (our total salaries are) outside that allotment we have to find the dollars somewhere.”
Ocracoke School has again received a four-year 21st Century after-school program grant of $1.4 million over four years. This grant’s cycle will focus on academics, said Dr. Linda Willis, director of student services. Art and music instruction will be available to Ocracoke students through this program.