Pew issues responses

11-20 Page 4A.inddBy Greg Oliver, The Journal

COUNTY — Former Pickens County School Board Chairman Ben Trotter has had his say, and Pickens County School Superintendent Kelly Pew has responded.

Pew addressed several of the primary concerns expressed by Trotter — from teachers and administrators to observations and evaluations to the hiring of a culinary specialist and school facilities.

On the issue of communications between parents and community members and Trotter’s argument that board members are often contacted because district leadership is unavailable, Pew said the district’s practice is for concerned parties to contact a teacher or administrator “if they have a concern at their school.”

“It is more efficient to begin at the level where the issue occurs,” she said. “If the issue is not resolved at the school level, parents may contact the district for assistance. Our school- and district-level administrators are committed to assisting our parents and students.”

Pew said the district encourages teachers and administrators to observe students and teachers in the classrooms, which “allows us to recognize excellent instructional practices within our schools.” But she added that district-level administrators also observe classrooms.

“As superintendent, I have been in more than 100 classrooms this year,” she said. “Our schools receive their state and federal grade by our performance data, which includes the PASS assessment, HSAP, EOC and graduation rates.

“When the district participated in TAP, administrators and lead teachers did evaluate teachers, but student achievement data and professional learning were key components. The incentive pay teachers received was based on teacher evaluations and student growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. The new teacher evaluation being piloted in the state will use some of the same components.”

Pew said administrators are trained to make evaluation decisions regarding instructional practices, adding “there are multiple evaluations of a teacher, and evaluators have participated in inter-rater reliability before they are able to evaluate teachers.”

While the superintendent acknowledged that a culinary specialist was hired for food services, at a salary range of $46,000 to $53,000, with benefits ranging up to $25,000-plus, she added the person was hired “to help assist schools in preparing nutritious, student desired lunches.”

“This person was paid for out of the Student Nutrition Services budget and could not be used to fund salaries or bonuses outside of Student Nutrition Services,” said Pew. “Student Nutrition’s funding is separate from the General Fund, which pays for teacher salaries.”

Pew said that in the area of facilities, school districts must have an ongoing budget.

“With the huge economic downturn and loss of revenue, there have been no additional funds allocated for maintenance over the last few years,” she said. “The board did approve the $13 million requested to replace roofs and HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) in the district. The policy committee will be meeting in February to develop a policy and funding mechanism as we move forward.”