Chambley discusses special election

Published 8:10 am Friday, August 20, 2021

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At the Chambers County School Board meeting on Wednesday, Superintendent Casey Chambley discussed an upcoming vote on Aug. 31 to approve or reject taxes that would benefit the school system.

“Every 25 years, we have to relevy our millage for our ad valorem taxes, which is our property tax, which is a large percentage of where we get our money from,” Chambley explained. “We are in that 25-year period, and we have a special election coming up, as you all know — we’ve talked about this — on [Tuesday] Aug. 31.”

Chambley encouraged school board members to vote yes for the taxes.

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“There’s no new taxes on this,” he said. “This is nothing new. It’s the 10.7 mills that we’ve been paying for 25 years, so there’s no new taxes added to this at this time. So it’s everything you’ve been doing. We just have to get those relevied. So every 25 years, we have to vote to have that relieved up, and we will do so on Aug. 31.”

He said Chambers County schools depend on the money.

“If we didn’t have that money, we would be in a bad way. We receive about $390,000 per mill that we are voted on. So you can do the math. If we lose some of those or if we lose that money, it would really, really put us in a bind.”

In other business, the school board approved a series of agenda items.

One item was to pay a stipend of $100.00 per day to all new teachers attending the New Teacher Institute on August 2, 2021. The stipend would be paid from federal funds.

Routine personnel changes were another item, dealing mostly with coaching stipends and coaching supplements from both high schools and both middle schools.

“We need to take a look at our coaching supplements to be competitive,” Chambley said. “We’re in the lower 60 percent on a lot of our coaching supplements, and we need to take a look at those to be competitive in the surrounding counties.

Chambley explained that the coaching supplements in the packet reflect the two percent pay increase that was given by the state.

“We made some minor adjustments to the coaching supplements,” he said. [We] did not make the changes that were needed or needed to be made, but we made a few changes by equalizing some of the head coaching positions by making all of the head coaching positions for certain sports the same. For example, some of our head basketball coaching positions for girls and boys was one amount. A higher amount. But then, your track and baseball and softball and some of those amounts were less. And so we equalized those. Our next step is to go back, and we’re going to take a look at our coaching supplements along with our 200 two-day countracts. What we would like to do is look at that in the coming year and look at some of what we’re paying along with paying contracts for 10-month employees for varsity football coaches. It’s my wish that we can adjust our coaching supplements up and not have to supplement through those 10-month contract days.”

The board approved payrolls for July 2021 and the financial statement for July 2021.

They approved all Alabama High School Athletic Association sanctioned related overnight and/or out of state field trips for the 2021 to 2022 school year as well as all career technical student organizations related overnight and out of state field trips for 2021 to 2022.

The board reviewed a proposed budget that would run from Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022.

Chambley said that some money from the CARES Act will be spent on teacher materials, after school tutoring, summer programs for this year and next year, and HVAC units.

“We are going to be able to spend and recover and replace a lot of needed HVAC systems across the county to improve circulation and air flow in the buildings,” he said, expressing gratitude that the money wouldn’t have to come from general or maintenance funds.

“We are also going to be able to update and renovate the nurses’ stations in all of our schools,” said Chief School Financial Officer Cassandra Allen, who said CAREs act money had been budgeted to get them updated supplies and more PPE supplies and equipment, as well fund STEM programs and pay for new student desks and chairs.

Toward the end of the meeting, Chambley announced that the virtual school for grades six through 12 is still open and taking applications. He said that it’s now housed at Inspire Academy.

He also gave an update on the school system’s handling of COVID-19. He recommended keeping the mask mandate and reviewing it in September.

“Many other school districts are having more problems and more issues than we are right now, and we hope that we stay in a low number,” he said. “Our COVID numbers last week were about 31, and our COVID numbers as of today when I left my office for this week, just from Monday through today, we were at about 30 positive cases that have been confirmed.”

Chambley said parents had been doing a good job of keeping sick students at home. He said that if a school had a high enough number of cases, it would be closed as opposed to shutting down the whole district.

“It’s not a mandate, but we are encouraging all of our employees to receive the vaccination,” he said. “I would encourage adults to receive the vaccination. I still stand with the parental choice of students 12 and older and that’s a parent’s choice. You read the information and make the decision on your own.”

Chambley also brought up the school system being in a federal court battle over unitary status.

“Chambers County Schools have still not gained unitary status through the Lee Vs. Macon and what turned into Lee Vs. Chambers County,” he said, explaining that the school system is under a federally mandated order to desegregate its schools. “And so we are dealing with that situation right now, and we are in the depths of it. We’ve been dealing with it for over 30 years.”

He said the school system went through a period after about 1999 until about 2015 when there wasn’t much discussion on the issue.

“And so, after the last four or five years, we’ve been dealing with this situation again, and our offices have been dealing with it, and we’re in the thick of it,” he said. “We’ve been given a court date for next year of 2022. But we are in the process of trying to negotiate a settlement. It’s very important for us to know and for our parents to know that this is going on. We’re dealing with this, and there’s a lot that we can’t talk about. We can’t talk about certain things. But we are going to try to talk to you more about it. We’re going to try to give you more information about what are some of the options and what are some of the things that we are going to have to do to satisfy the [Department of Justice] and the [Legal Defense Fund].

Chambley said that in order for the school system to gain unitary status, it would have to meet six standards. He said some deal with the demographics of student enrollment, the demographics of teacher and staff enrollment, extracurricular activities, transportation, and class offerings.