School systems across North Carolina continue to see a decrease in the amount of funding provided by the state and federal governments. While that funding amount is dropping, the needs for local systems continue to grow.
During a budget planning session with the Sampson County Board of Commissioners Wednesday morning, leaders from Sampson County Schools, Clinton City Schools and Sampson Community College presented their budgetary needs for the upcoming year.
Dr. Eric Bracy, superintendent for Sampson County Schools, began the annual discussion by thanking commissioners for the continued support of the students and staff across the county.
“While the state and federal leaders have cut us, you continue to increase what you give,” Bracy noted.
Over the last five years, Bracy said the low-wealth funding provided to the system had been cut from $5 million to $4.2 million.
“That is a significant loss in revenue,” he explained.
While systems continue waiting to hear the final word on state and local funds to be appropriated for the 2018-2019 school year, Bracy said he has heard mumblings that both will be cut once again.
“Unfortunately, when there are cuts, our personnel suffers,” Bracy added. “We are having to cut teaching positions and increase classroom sizes. We have been fortunate to be able to lose those positions through retirement and attrition and we haven’t had to let anyone go.”
In light of recent events, like much of the nation, Bracy and his staff are now more concerned than ever about safety in the schools.
“It’s time for a renewed vigilance in school safety,” he said.
Sampson County Schools currently has SROs (School Resource Officers) placed at high schools across the county. Bracy, as well as the members of the Board, would like to see a SRO on all 19 campuses in the system.
Sampson County commissioner Harry Parker asked Bracy about his opinion regarding a hot topic in the news concerning educators being equipped with firearms in the schools.
“Looking in the news at the current situations in our schools, do you have an opinion about what we can do to improve safety in the schools,” Parker asked.
While Bracy admitted that arming teachers isn’t the answer, he did say that safety is an issue that needs to be addressed across the board.
“We need to be vigilant of everything and everyone in our schools,” Bracy explained. “You have to take every threat seriously. We have worked to tighten our buildings by sealing off access points on the campus.”
The House Bill 90 mandate will also have an impact on Sampson’s schools, forcing Bracy and his staff to add 19 mobile units over the next four years to accommodate the growing classroom sizes.
“When you lose teachers and increase classroom sizes, you are hurting academics,” Thaddeus Godwin, commissioner, said.
Complying with the state mandate, Bracy said they would increase classroom sizes as necessary. He is certain that his staff will continue to work hard to reach all students.
Much like Bracy, Clinton City Schools superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount has been working to maximize a decreasing budget.
“We have continued to find ways to reduce the budget without reducing our services,” Blount explained.
In an effort to keep students globally competitive, Blount and his staff have worked to secure grant funding that has enabled the system to purchase enough computers for each student to be assigned a device.
“The community is changing, society is changing and we doing a lot of things to keep our kids up to date globally,” Blount said.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.