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Board of Education candidate Q and A

Though attendance was low this week at the informal question and answer session for those interested in running for the Marietta City Schools three open board of education seats, the content of questions covered the gamut in what Board President Russ Garrison and Superintendent Will Hampton hoped would provide a more informed interest in the role of the seats.

Question: Have things started to move from buildings in the reorganization of building grade levels?

Answer: Yes.

“If you walk through the halls right now there are lines of boxes, and teachers have been moving stuff, they’ve been doing this all week,” said Hampton.

Garrison explained that increments of internal moves between closing buildings and those that are shifting to welcome new grades began as soon as classes ended.

“And now we’re really trying to get into the habit of calling the old middle school the new Marietta Elementary School,” said Garrison.

Kindergarten through second grade at Putnam and Harmar elementary schools are in transition to Washington and Phillips schools, while all four previous elementary buildings are sending third through fifth-grade teachers’ wares to the former middle school above Seventh Street.

Teachers that wanted to move their own rooms were permitted and have open access to their buildings, but moving trucks and personnel are also contracted for those requiring assistance.

“We even have some that want to paint their own rooms,” said Hampton. “So we buy the paint … some of the colors are vibrant … Make it yours.”

But part of the movement, Hampton explained, includes some position jostling still, as teachers vie for positions newly opened by unpredicted retirements, new opportunities elsewhere and those leaving education altogether.

Q: Is the district’s ability to rehire the 40 teachers initially slated for elimination in January all through attrition?

A: No.

“We’re going to be doing this for another month so, and it’s interesting that all of those awkward conversations in January where I didn’t have a place for you in August, OK now, some things have changed since we’ve received some additional (federal) funding to support recovery or lost learning,” explained Hampton. “Granted it’s for two years, but while some are through attrition, some are through (federal) funding and through filling positions for people who have left unexpectedly to take other positions elsewhere.”

Q: When does all of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund have to be spent?

A: Sept. 30, 2022.

“We have slightly over two years to spend it,” noted Garrison.

But when reviewing how 80 percent of the district’s operating budget is consumed by salaries/wages and benefits of personnel, that additional funding presents a unique balancing act of cash flow, Hampton explained.

“When you know in two years that money is gone, how do you spend that much money on salaries and benefits?” he posed. “I don’t want to just hire people, just to hire people. So we’re looking at other creative ways to use the funds to offset other expenses.”

Q: Can the ESSER funds be banked for a rainy day or held in surplus?

A: No.

“But if you can divert some of the things that could be spent in your general fund on to the extra funds, then you can stretch your general fund money a little bit longer,” said Garrison.

Q: How long is the term of a board member?

A: Four years.

Four years of $125 per formal meeting, plus additional commitments for those serving on differing committees, the pair explained.

“It works out to around $2,000 a year,” explained Garrison. “Fundamentally, we are policymakers and oversight or direction for the district. It’s not on us as a board to execute though the president and vice president work pretty close in conversations with the superintendent and treasurer.”

He guided the care the board must take to not violate open meeting laws by staying informed with district ongoings, but not “round-robin” discussion outside of formal, public meetings.

“And then, occasionally we’ll need to call the special meetings,” Garrison added. “You just got to be careful that you haven’t created a session where all of the board members understand the whole deliberations (virtually) where you’ve created the deliberation aspect of open meetings without an open meeting. We’ve watched that carefully especially on emails.”

The pair noted that the deadline to file completed petitions for the non-partisan seats is Aug. 4 at the Washington County Board of Elections office.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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