3:50 p.m. Dec. 3, 2014
By Connie Leinbach
Ocracoke residents voiced their disapproval yesterday about the Hyde County Board of Education, who met in the Community Center here, for their monthly meeting seeking pay raises.
This was in response to an item on the Hyde County Commissioners’ agenda Monday night from school Superintendent Randolph H. Latimore Sr.
The commissioners tabled the request until the Jan. 6 meeting since Latimore did not arrive on the Ocracoke side of the meeting until close to the end of the meeting and could not explain the request. They asked that both Latimore and Kenneth Chilcoat, the district’s financial officer, attend the January meeting.
Nonetheless, Ocracoke Commissioner John Fletcher noted that the district already has $30,000 in its budget that goes to school board members’ salaries.
“They have enough from what Hyde County already gave them,” Fletcher said. “If there’s extra money, it should go the kids and not to administration.”
Hyde County Manager Bill Rich explained in the meeting that Latimore had sent him a letter dated Nov. 28 noting that school board members receive $42 for the monthly meeting and the chairman receives $50 per meeting. Latimore asked for the members to receive the same as the county commissioners, or $353 per meeting and the chairman $470, for a total of $22,944.
In addition to its monthly meeting, the five school board members “may have up to two or three additional meetings per month for personnel matters, policy work sessions, or other items that may necessitate the Board to meet in advance of its regular meeting,” Latimore said in his letter.
However, the county commissioners want to discuss this more.
“If they’re serious enough to ask for (a raise) they need to come in and explain,” Rich said in an interview today (Wednesday). “We need to know about the where it’s coming from in their budget and where (this money) is going to come from next year. The flow of funds needs to be examined and explained.”
Hyde County awarded the school district $1.288 million for this year, down from the $1.425 million the district had requested. The entire school district budget is $11 million.
Rich also noted in today’s interview that when the county commissioners approved this budget it had included a $10,000 donation for the Ocracoke Community Park. However, the school board declined in September to fund that request saying it was not part of school district property.
Islanders in attendance at Tuesday’s school board meeting let it be known that the school board’s timing was off.
“It’s concerning that the school board wants more money for themselves when in the past year you cut teacher’s aides and cut out the art program,” said Leslie Lanier. “If there’s money in the budget, it needs to go back to the arts program.”
David Tweedie, president of Ocracoke Alive, a nonprofit arts organization, noted that his organization stepped up to provide arts courses when they learned all art instruction would be eliminated from the roster of academics.
The group is having to do its own fundraising to pay the $8,000 it will cost the group to pay for the 17 weeks of classes for pre-K to eighth grade.
“It’s hard for me to understand you’re asking for a raise when we are breaking our backs to come up with $8,000,” he said. He noted that according to the National School Board Association website, 75 percent of small school boards across the nation receive no salary.
Sundae Horn, owner of the online newspaper the Ocracoke Current, also expressed concern that in the face of hard budget times administrators are looking for a raise.
“I can’t understand how administrators can give themselves more money when there are other programs suffering,” she said. “You didn’t give money for our ball field and the Ocracoke Day Care has to close (for three months) and come up with about $20,000 to reopen in March.”
The school directors did not comment on the islanders’ comments.
The Hyde County School Division is the second smallest school division in North Carolina.