JACKSBORO, TN. (WLAF)- The Thursday evening meeting of the Campbell County Board of Education Finance Committee was a mixed bag of news.

While some cuts had to be facilitated following a decrease in Title I funding, the committee also talked about the final CARES Act money the system would receive due to COVID-19.

A reduction of just under $250,000 meant a number of assistants had been cut from Caryville, Jellico, Wynn, Elk Valley and Jacksboro Elementary Schools, Pam Walden, Title I director, told the group assembled via ZOOM.  “The people in those positions understood they were hired on a year-to-year basis,” Walden said. She noted many of them were substitute teachers who “made just as much subbing (substitute teaching) than as an assistant.”

Fifth district board member Steve Morgan asked if the cuts were a savings measure.  “No, they only serve to balance everything,” Walden said.  First district board member Jeff Miller wanted to know how much of a loss Valley View had suffered due to the Title I shortfall.  Walden emphasized that school had not felt those cuts, which led Miller to ask about the possibility of placing an assistant principal there.  “It is 420 (students) to one (principal).  It’s a stretch,” he said. Walden said that conversation was more suited for a general purpose fund discussion.

Moving onto the subject of staff seeking to retire in the coming school year, Campbell County Director of Schools Jennifer Fields said it would amount to a $807,209 savings. “The money will not come from a slash of the positions but instead from the savings of hiring new people into those positions. There is a financial difference in a first year teacher and an experienced teacher with advanced degrees,” Fields said. Any savings garnered will put be into text books over the course of the school year.

With a reminder that COVID-19 has had far reaching implications, Fields said the number of people hoping to retire could change due to the pandemic. The original deadline for retirement was in April but that was later pushed to May 15. Those retiring are a mix of teachers, administrators and support staff.

Morgan broached the subject of unfunded mandates, which are directives put in place by the state and done without finical support from the state. “There are none at the time,” Fields said.

Also covered in the meeting was a decrease in student enrollment. In the last five years, 444 students had declined to enroll in the county system. “I see that being a trend,” said Josh James, second district board member. The loss of 444 students system wide is an estimated $3 million loss, according to James.

“There is no possible way we can continue to operate if that trend moving forward,” James said. He urged the board to start looking for a solution now instead of worrying every April what the next year’s cash flow would look like.  “Numbers were tracked throughout the year,” Fields said. For this academic year a “break even point” was anticipated but that’s the not the goal, she said.  “We want to exceed and excel,” Fields said.

Campbell County Schools is slated to receive $1.9 million from the CARES Act that was passed in response to COVID-19.  Lisa Fields, first district board member, asked if it was allowable to invest some of that money in online learning. That money has specific guidelines and Fields hopes to learn more about those in the coming weeks. She did tell the group that technology was one area where the dollars could be spent. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 05/11/2020- 6AM)