Winning science

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Harrison Goodwin (far left), Leslie M. Stover Middle School Principal Chantelle Zimmer (center) and Kershaw County Board of School Trustees Chairman James Smith (far right) congratulate district students who earned awards at the 67th annual University of South Carolina Regional Science Fair. Accepting certificates of recognition are (from left) Lawrence Miller, accepting for his daughter, Layla, for her earning first place in the Behavioral Science category; Andrew Rynbrandt, for earning three awards — second place in Chemistry, the fair’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and third place for 7th Grade projects; and Laila McCoy, who earned Director’s and Metric awards.

The Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) chief financial officer (CFO) said he has “high confidence” that a projected nearly $603,000 shortfall in the district’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget will be eliminated before it comes for second/final reading by the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees.

KCSD CFO Brad Willard made the comments during his presentation on the budget to the board at its meeting Tuesday night.

The district’s proposed expenditures for FY 2024 total $112.42 million, an approximately $9.8 million increase over the current budget, while expected general fund revenues are currently $111.82 million.

“It’s interesting that the shortfall actually makes a little bit of sense,” Willard noted. “It seems to be reasonable because that almost aligns identically with what the teacher step increase costs, which is a state mandate that is unfunded.”

He told the board what the district is proposing is a “people-focused” budget.

“It is driven mostly by state mandates regarding specific classifications of employee salaries and fringe costs. We know, that in large part, this human capital investment into our folks working in the district--those cost increases translate directly into the classrooms so it has a great impact on students (and) we’ve taken time to ensure the instructional supply and material needs are adequate in this budget.”

The proposed budget includes:

• a $2,500 minimum increase in each cell of the teacher salary schedule, which includes other categories such as nurses, guidance counselors, media specialists, OT/PT, etc.;

• a $2.28 per hour minimum increase to each cell of the bus driver salary schedule;

• a step increase for all eligible employees;

• a3% cost of living adjustment for classifications other than teachers and bus drivers; and

• for eligible retirees to move from step 18 to 23.

Willard also noted the proposed budget includes full-time equivalents (FTE) necessary to maintain classroom staffing ratios.

“We’ve talked about growth in areas of the county and we’re well prepared to handle that as needed,” he said. “Special education staffing is a great need; there are a lot of vacancies out there. We’re prepared to handle those as needed on a contractual basis if we have to.”

Other changes include budget shifts for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funded expenses where possible.

“We know that money is going to go away so we need to make preparations for any expenses that we deem sustainable and necessary,” Willard said. “In this budget, we’ve taken time again to look at miscellaneous program expense needs, utilities and facilities maintenance.”

He noted the state has mandated school districts increase their contribution to employee retirement and health insurance.

“We have a one% employer retirement contribution increase and we have the employer health insurance cost increase at 3.74%,” he said.

Willard reminded trustees that the budget projections could change as the legislative session is completed later this month or in June.

“Salary and fringe projections will fluctuate as we continue to make changes in the system,” he added. “Contracts were just collected as of May 10. We will continue to review non-salary accounts to identify needs and trends as we near year end.”

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Harrison Goodwin said that when creating a budget, it should be a “physical representation” of the district’s mission.

“We’re about educating children, and to do that you’ve got to take care of your staff,” Goodwin said. “A couple of things to take note of, when you talk about the competitiveness for teachers — we have 38 certified positions (open) as of when I walked down to this building. Of those, 13 are special ed positions. In addition to that, we also have 26 classified staff positions open right now and that doesn’t take into account our bus driver shortage. So we have a challenge in front of us.”

Goodwin agreed that the budget shortfall should not be a concern before final reading.

“I will say that there’s a high confidence level that when all of this shakes out there will be no concern about that shortfall and, in fact, we will be able to look at things like, what else can we do for certified staff members going forward,” he said. “We believe that all of this is going to shake out in a positive way. (We) feel really good bringing you a first reading budget that focuses on our most important asset, which is our people, and making sure we’re trying to take into account their needs. Because if we don’t have good quality staff, we can’t do the other things we need to do.”

Board Chairman Dr. James Smith said he feels the board is in agreement in wanting to “move forward” to do as much more possible for the district’s teachers, administrators, bus drivers, all across the board.

“We’ll be working in that direction to do more, so we can fill positions and get people on board,” Smith said.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, trustees gave first reading to two policies formalizing its adoption of a new state standard requiring students to take a personal finance course as a graduation requirement. KCSD Director of Communications Becky Bean said that in November 2022, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved the requirement that, beginning with the freshman class entering school this fall, students will be required to complete a one-half (.5) credit in financial literacy to earn a South Carolina high school diploma.

The SBE passed second and final reading on May 9, approving the measure.

A student must still earn a total of 24 units of credit in state-approved courses for graduation; this half credit will come out of the current elective category, changing required electives to 6.5, Bean said.

Counter to what was reported ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, KCSD Chief Academic Officer Dan Matthews told the board the district plans to offer the personal finance course as a full-unit class, rather than for .5 credit.

“If you offer it as a half a unit class, we have to pair that up with another half-unit class so we would have to create yet another class to go along with that,” Matthews said.

Trustees also changed its only July meeting from July 11 to July 18, and recognized a large number of students, teachers, and school programs. These included:

• Arin Campbell, Leslie M. Stover Middle School, second place female archer in bullseye, S.C. State Archery Competition.

• Joyce Edwards, Camden High School (CHS), S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year, making her only the second CHS basketball player to be selected for the award, honoring her academics, athletics and character.

• Laila McCoy, Director’s and Metric awards; Layal Miller, first place, Behavioral Science, and honorable mention, Gray L. Allen Award; and Andrew Rynbrandt, second place, Chemistry Division, Outstanding Achievement Award, and third place overall for 7th Grade projects — all at the 67th annual University of South Carolina Regional Science Fair.

• Emily Baccomo, teacher, Lugoff-Elgin Middle School (L-EMS), for receiving one grant for “The Holocaust Education Novel Study” and a separate grant, from the Camden Junior Welfare League, for “Authentic Authors for Hispanic Latino Students.”

• Brenda Kirkland, L-EMS, grants from the S.C. Council on the Holocaust, the Selden K. Smith Holocaust Education Foundation and Camden Junior Welfare League to bring the Anne Frank Traveling and Holocaust Remembrance exhibits to L-EMS.

• Jason Brazell, coach, and members of the North Central High School (NCHS) wrestling team, Class AA State Tournament runners-up.

• Meredith Kirkland, assistant principal, NCHS, grant from the Health Services District of Kershaw County to fund a wellness coaching partnership with the University of South Carolina.

• Silver Knights Band, NCHS, S.C. Band Director Association’s Outstanding Performance Award (the most prestigious given each year to school band programs).

• Genie Wallace, coach, and Lainey Williams, captain, CHS Academic Quiz Bowl Team, state championship runners-up (10-student team).

• CHS Boys Tennis Team, state champions, with three players receiving All-Star honors from the S.C. High School League.

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