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3% raise proposed for school employees

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By Tom Wilmoth

    The Bedford County School Board will begin tackling the 2013-2014 budget Thursday in the first of a series of work sessions which will be held at at 6 p.m. in the School Board Office Conference Room.

    Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch presented his proposed $104 million budget to the board last Thursday, a budget that includes a 3 percent salary increase for all school employees and focuses on improving technology in the schools.
    Dr. Schuch’s proposal would add teacher positions at middle and high schools with a focus on mathematics instruction, along with the recruitment and retention of mathematics teachers. His budget also had proposals to provide better security equipment at schools as well as adding one Virginia Preschool Initiative program. It also takes into account the school system’s new responsibilities of operating Bedford Elementary and  Middle   School,   as the result of reversion, and has capital maintenance projects slated for nine schools.
    His proposal would request $39.4 million in local funding from the county, $2.1 million less than the current year, as a result of increased funding through reversion. Starting the new school year Bedford County will be able to use the city’s more favorable local composite index as its state funding formula.
    “The budget reflects the priorities of our school division and the expectations of our community, expectations that have risen dramatically with the economic recovery in our state and the promised improvements to our schools resulting from state funding associated with the Bedford city reversion,” Dr. Schuch stated.
    He said it’s important for the board to consider not only the immediate needs, but also the future needs of students just entering school next year.
    “One trend that we know to be true in the current job market is that fewer and fewer middle class jobs are available for students who only achieve a high school diploma,” he said. “The world has shrunk, economies have shifted, and the difference between success and failure for our students in the future largely hinges on what we provide or don’t provide.”
    He said improving student-teacher ratios at the secondary level will help students pursuing career internships and blended learning course offerings.
    Improving the school systems technological capabilities is at the top of his goals for the budget.
    “For far too long we have treated technology in our schools as some sort of luxury,” he said. “The time has come to treat school technology as the necessity it has become, not just for preparing our students for the future, but also because technology now prevails in just about every aspect of our society.”
    He hopes the board of supervisors will get behind the request.
    “My hope is that you can help me convince our community and our Board of Supervisors that funding this budget is in the best interest of all of our citizens,” he told the board.
    Also on Thursday the board heard a report from Director of Instruction Dr. Mac Duis, updating the transition of the driver’s ed behind-the-wheel training to its school-based model. Dr. Duis said the goal is to be utilizing that model fully by April 8, giving the schools a chance to test the model before school is out.