Salary schedule concerns raised to Cullman City Board of Education

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(Ashlyn Grey for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman City Schools held their final Budgetary Hearing for Fiscal Year 2022 Monday, Sept. 13. The same presentation given by Chief School Financial Officer/ Chief Operating Officer James Brumley at the first Budgetary Hearing last Thursday was made once more to the Cullman City School Board, with several additions in the audience.

The $31.6 million budget was successfully passed by the Board, along with approval of the purchase of property at 910 3rd Ave.

All information relating to the presentation of the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget can be found at https://www.cullmantribune.com/2021/09/10/cullman-city-school-board-meeting-thursday-addresses-fiscal-year-2022-recent-bomb-threats/.

At the conclusion of the second Budgetary presentation, the floor was opened for questions and met by Cullman High School teacher Amy Gleaton.

The first point presented by Mrs. Gleaton was on the reallocation of local funds of the amount of $200 from teachers’ personal use for their classroom to the schools via their principals for Capital Projects.

She questioned why there would be an increase in funding for Capital Projects if those schools are already under certain renovations by asking, “Why are we increasing by approximately $7,000 to West [Elementary], $7,200 to East [Elementary], $6,800 to [Cullman City] Primary and $13,000 to the high school? Now, I know the high school is not getting a lot of renovations, but that is a lot of money to go to Capital Projects when we are looking at renovating those schools.”

Mrs. Gleaton quoted CFO James Brumley on part of his explanation for the reallocation of the local funds, saying, “A lot of these teachers in this district are not using that $200.” To investigate, Gleaton conducted a poll on a Google form from her personal Google account to keep all of the information private.

“I did get a small pool of information. And from that information, I found out that of people who received the $200 for local funding in the classroom at Cullman City Schools, 41.7% spent all of their local funding, 8.3% have some or all of it remaining because they are planning on compounding it with this year’s to buy a large purchase and 50% were saving all or some of their local money because of the first-of-year expenses since State monies are not available at this time.”

She continued, “So from August to October 1, we go without State monies, but we still have kids who need things, and labs and activities to do in our classrooms. So, because the local money is not pulled from us and we do not lose access to it, they hold that money specifically for the start of the year and that gives them start of the year funds to get their classroom up and running.”

Based on these findings, she continued, “This may not be the most scientific of research and yes, it is a small pool of data, but at least I can say I did not assume the purposes for teachers holding that money. I did reach out and ask and this is teacher data from our school system. Of the teachers who responded, zero of them said that they did not need the money. One hundred percent did say that the loss of the local funding will directly impact their classroom, and 100% of the teachers who responded did say they are already spending their own money to provide for their classrooms and to meet their students’ needs. A loss of this $200 will just mean an increase on their personal expenses. We really need to consider this when we are looking at what we are doing with our local money for our classrooms because our teachers are utilizing it. They may not be utilizing it from October 1 – May, but they are utilizing it.”

Gleaton also raised the point of teachers who had been lost in hiring opportunities due to the salary scheduling.

“Drivable systems around us that pay more than us – Cullman County pays above State matrix, Jefferson County pays above State matrix, Madison City pays above State matrix, Shelby County pays above State matrix, Homewood pays above State matrix, Hoover pays above State matrix, Decatur pays above State matrix. Y’all, we are losing teachers to these systems. We have teachers who are leaving us. I have never seen an exodus like I saw this year from quality teachers leaving our system and going somewhere else. Quality teachers who have been here for 20+ years.”

She continued, “They left our system, why? They live in our community, why would they leave? They have children that have gone through, or are going through our school system, why would they leave? It is because of our salary schedule. When you look at the fact that our administration, our superintendents, directors, CFO’s, principals and assistant principals are all making in the top 15% [in the state] varying some in the 5%–some in the 10%, but all of them in the top 15%, and then we turn around and look at our teacher salary and it is the bare minimum that you could possibly pay them—we need to really reconsider that. We need to look at that. I do not know if it can be changed right now, but it needs to be changed.”

Mrs. Gleaton then pointed out that Homewood City Schools pays $1,800 – $3,000 above State matrix and Mountain Brook pays $3,000 – $10,000 as examples of local systems that honor and pay teachers based on experience.

She explained, “Now look, I never ever want to imply that our Administrators and our Directors are not worthy of the salary that they are earning. They are. They work very hard, but so do we. We work very hard, and we should be paid our value and it should reflect in a similar way that we are paying our directors, and principals and superintendents. And that is all I ask. If they were not making in the top 15%, I would not be sitting here saying we should be making in the top 15%.”

She concluded, “If we looked at this and everybody was making State matrix, then we would be going, ‘Okay, we may be honoring the fact that we may disagree in opinion and every ounce of pennies that we can send towards our students, we are sending towards our students.’ But that is not the case here. There is a massive discrepancy, and it needs to be addressed.”

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