A salary freeze was the main topic of discussion at the July meeting of the Morehouse Parish School Board Tuesday night.
Business Manager Diane Ferschoff made a request to members of the finance committee at its regular meeting to consider freezing the salary schedule for the 2013 - 2014 school year and to make no payments for highly effective or effective proficient due to budgetary problems. "Because our budget is at a $2.7 million deficient, we simply can not afford to increase salaries at this time," Ferschoff said. "We have lost a lot of students therefore we have lost a lot of MFP funds." District 4 Representative Jeff Churchwell expressed concerns about teachers who were up for their step raise and what the consequences of not receiving it may be. "Should those teachers who are expecting a raise decide to leave, we will have a bigger problem on our hands and a longer list of resignations to deal with," Churchwell said. After discussion the board voted to freeze salaries for the upcoming school year. "It was our intention of just freezing the performance raises, but due to the budget, we are having to freeze salaries across the board," Superintendent Dr. George Noflin said. A second item on the agenda also brought much discussion. The board was asked to consider changing the lowest grade of 50 percent back to the grade the student actually earned. This was implemented last year and there are concerns from some that students are using the 50 percent grade to slack off for the first part of the school year. District 3 Representative Ron Vollmar said he had been approached by some teachers expressing this concern and while they are willing to help students by assigning extra work, those he had talked to did not see the plan as working. "Students are given the tools to help them bring up a bad grade but a lot of them are using the 50 percent and know that they can't fail." District 2 Representative Louis Melton disagreed. "I was the biggest supporter of you got the grade you earned while I was teaching," Melton said. "But I have gotten wise and want to help these kids whose hope will be killed if they know they can't pull up a bad grade." The floor was opened up for educators opinion on the topic and Delta Jr. High School Principal Cynthia Clark said she supported the 50 percent. "We have students who come to school in the same clothes all week. We have students who are struggling to do their work without the help of a parent," Clark said. "You never know what kind of night the student had; some of our students don't even know where they are going to lay their head down at each night and we can't afford not to help them." The motion to return scoring to actual grades was passed by a vote of five to one, with Melton voting against.