The Transylvania Times -

Schools See Dip In Federal Funding


May 14, 2018

The local school system has seen federal grant funding decrease by more than 25 percent over the past five years.

Dr. Jeremy Gibbs, chief academic officer for Transylvania County Schools, informed the Transylvania County Board of Education last Monday evening that federal grants have decreased from $2,921,737 to $2,145,498.

“That is just a reduction in the allotment of federal dollars,” said Gibbs, who added that the relatively small change in student enrollment cannot explain the significant change in funding.

He also said that while the amount of federal grants has decreased, the number of students whose needs are partially met through this grant funding has increased.

For example, the number of students whose native language is not English has increased from 70 to 110.

“In a short period of time, that is a significant increase,” said Gibbs.

Of the federal grant money the school system receives, 89 percent is allocated for teacher salaries and benefits.

Six percent is for supplies and materials, 2 percent is for contracted services and 3 percent is for reserve.

Since nearly 90 percent of the funding goes to salaries and benefits, whenever the federal grant funding is cut, the school system has to use money from other resources to fund the necessary services.

Gibbs said the federal grants are not competitive, and that schools that meet the federal criteria receive the funding.

By far the largest federal grant program is Title I, which provides money to schools with high child poverty rates.

In Transylvania County, approximately 60 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Gibbs said the Title I money is spent in the four elementary schools to lower class sizes and provide supplemental instructional services.

Title II funds are used to reduce class sizes and provide professional development for staff. Gibbs said teachers who pursue advanced degrees in their fields have some of their expenses reimbursed through Title II funding.

Title III funding is used to support students whose native language is not English. Even though that number has increased from 70 to 100, federal funding for that area is less than $10,000.

Five years ago those funds were approximately $20,000.

Gibbs said that money was going to be taken away because the minimum amount a system should receive is $10,000.

School board member Marty Griffin said it was stupid for the federal government to talk about efficient use of money, but then attempt to withdraw funding because it was not spending $10,000 or more.

Gibbs said the school system found a few other systems in the state that were in similar circumstances and formed a consortium so that all of them could continue receiving Title III funding.

Title IV money is allocated for student support and academic enrichment. Gibbs said the school system spent $27,000 from that funding source to purchase updated AEDs (automated external defibrillators) at all nine schools.

Other Title IV funds were used to construct the Imagination Playground at Pisgah Forest Elementary, implement the Leader in Me program at Rosman Elementary and addressing the secondary impact of opioids and other drug abuse.

The county also receives federal grants to support Davidson River School and education for homeless students. The last program, entitled McKinney-Vento, allocated $30,000 to the county, but the school system had to match that grant with $30,000 of its own.

Gibbs said that on March 15 three members of the state Department of Public Instruction visited all four elementary schools to see how well the school system is using the federal funds.

“They were very thorough,” said Gibbs.

After the group spent the morning visiting the schools, they spent the afternoon separately interviewing parents, teachers, the four instructional coaches at the elementary schools and central office personnel.

Of the 30 criteria the DPI staff reviewed, the county had no negatives.

They had recommendations in only four areas, three of which are related to students whose native language is not English.

Gibbs said the DPI members were impressed with the schools’ small group instruction, supporting documentation and positive cultures.

“They were very complimentary of the staff,” said Gibbs.

When asked if the DPI representatives were pleased with how the county used its federal funds, Gibbs said, “Yes, they were very impressed.”

Board member Alice Wellborn said the school system does a good job of spending money in the classroom, where there are “boots on the ground.”

“We don’t just throw money at stuff,” said Wellborn, who added that the school system does a good job of cost-benefit analysis.

Board Chair Tawny McCoy said it was good to know that outside observers also see the same positive things in the schools that school board members see.

Bond Update

Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris said two community information/input sessions have been scheduled.

The first will be at Brevard High on June 4 at 6 p.m. with the second at Rosman High on June 18 at 6 p.m.

Norris Barger, director of business services and plant operations, said Clark Nexsen, the architectural firm that will provide a general design after receiving staff and public input, already has met with staff at Brevard High, Rosman High and Rosman Middle schools – the three schools that will be extensively renovated with the bond money.

He said the meetings went very well.

“They accepted all input,” said Barger of Clark Nexsen.

Griffin said one teacher told him that Clark Nexsen was very knowledgeable about school buildings and education.

“They know what they’re doing,” said Barger of Clark Nexsen.

More Comparisons

As he did at a previous meeting, McDaris presented another slide show comparing Transylvania County to other counties.

This presentation was A Roadmap of Need produced by the Public School Forum.

It included 20 indicators within four major areas: health, youth behavior and safety, education, and economic development.

The other counties used in the comparison – Montgomery, Martin, Jackson, Greene, Cherokee, Anson and Ashe – have similar student enrollments to Transylvania County.

In the health category, Transylvania ranks 29th in the state, which is behind Anson, ranked at 24th.

The other five counties ranked 63rd or lower, with Anson ranking 99th.

The health rankings are based on teen pregnancy, the number of physicians, child fatalities, child food insecurity and child obesity.

Transylvania did not fare well, however, in the youth behavior and safety category, in which it ranked 77th, behind five of the other counties.

“We are not doing well on that,” said McDaris.

The youth behavior and safety rankings are based on juvenile delinquency, juvenile detention admission, short-term suspension ranking, children in DSS (Department of Social Services) custody and child abuse and neglect.

In education, Transylvania ranks 30th, behind Cherokee at 19th and Ashe at 22nd. The other five counties were ranked 58th or lower.

The education rankings are based on graduation rate, third grade reading proficiency, Math I proficiency, ACT composite score and annual measure objectives.

“On education we do very well,” said McDaris.

Among the peer counties, Transylvania was the best in ACT Composite Scores (18th in the state) and reading (3rd in the state).

“In third grade reading we pretty much cleaned everybody’s clock,” said McDaris.

The only indicator in which the county fared poorly was Math I proficiency, in which it ranked 54th in the state and behind three of its peer counties.

As for economic development, Transylvania ranks 43rd in the state, following just Ashe County, ranked at 41st, among its peers.

The economic development rankings are based on median household income, child poverty, unemployment rate, adults with bachelor’s degree and single-parent households.

One indicator that pulled Transylvania down in this category is child poverty: Transylvania ranks 73rd in the state.

McDaris also provided comparisons with nearby Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Jackson counties in regards to economic development and child poverty.

Three of those counties – Henderson (6th in the state), Buncombe (8th) and Haywood (34th) – rank above Transylvania in the economic development category.

“Henderson County and Buncombe County are doing much, much better than we are,” said McDaris.

In regard to child poverty, all four of the other counties rank higher than Transylvania.

Only Haywood, ranked at 65th in the state, falls close to Transylvania.

Important Dates

•The Scholars Banquet and Award Presentation will be held May 17 at 5 p.m. at Brevard High.

•The Teachers of the Year Awards reception will be held May 31 in the Rogow Room of the Transylvania County Library.

•Davidson River School graduation will occur on campus on June 7 at 10 a.m.

•Brevard High graduation will be held June 8 at 6 p.m. at the Brevard Music Center.

•Rosman High graduation will be held June 9 at 10 a.m. at the Brevard Music Center.


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