Three days after voting, four to three, that modified graduation ceremonies would be held for Lincolnton County Schools Class of 2020 on May 29 and May 30, the Lincoln County Board of Education met Friday morning and voted unanimously to add additional graduation ceremonies in their respective stadiums on July 31 and Aug. 1 in what the board hopes will be a more traditional format. Any executive order in place at that time will have to be followed.

At the beginning of the discussion, Chairperson Cathy Davis address the board saying that they were all elected to the board because the voters believed that they cared about children.

“I want to say publicly that there’s not one board member present that has made any decision based on anything other than their care for the children in this district,” she said. “Does our individual interpretation of that differ? Of course it does. In the end I think we all want to work together to make good decisions even if sometimes it takes several attempts to do it.”

LCS Superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow cautioned board members that the way the social distancing guidelines are written now, board members will not be able to participate in the ceremonies on the 29th and 30th. This is so that those spots can go to the students and their families.

“I’m very hopeful that on the 31st and 1st, we’ll be back out there to honor our students,” she said. 

The special meeting was originally called to discuss the budget. At the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners meeting held on May 4, the budget presented by County Manager Kelly Atkins reduces the budget to the district by approximately 5% from the FY 20 budget.  Lincoln County Schools requested an amount in excess of $27 million which was a 13.4% increase over last year. The amount proposed by the commissioners is $21,946,968.  Of this amount, $840,000 will be appropriated strictly for a 2% supplement increase for certified classroom teachers. Capital for FY 21 is to be reduced by $300,000 as a result of projected reductions in Article 46 Sales Tax. 

Morrow shared some ideas with the board about how to work with the budget as proposed by the county. 

“I think now what we need to look at is filling essential vacancies,” she said. “We’re looking at adjusting allotments and possibly having combination classes in K-5. Again, this is just initial thinking.”

Other ideas that Morrow suggested included conversion of assistant principals, reallocation of assistant principals and freezing all open positions. It was also proposed to use some CARES funding to offset the reduced budget allocation.

The stimulus bill that passed in late March, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act, earmarks $30.7 billion under an Education Stabilization Fund for states to spend on education, including $13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund and $14 billion for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Another $3 billion goes to the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund, which governors can use for “significantly impacted” school districts or higher education institutions.

The board discussed at length the county’s decision to allocate a 2% supplement increase solely to certified classroom teachers. Board members were concerned because the increase was not to be given to all district employees.

Associate Superintendent Dr. Aaron Allen summarized major capital needs and reprioritization of these needs based on the reduction of funds.

The board of commissioners are meeting again on Monday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln County Administration Office at 353 North Generals Boulevard in Lincolnton on the budget. 

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