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Albemarle council needs more information regarding James’ funding proposal

During Monday night’s Albemarle City Council meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jeff James mentioned to the council about the possibility of providing funding for additional stipends to help retain teachers at Albemarle High and Albemarle Middle.

“Any funds from the city budget that could help provide teacher stipends at AHS and AMS would be of great value,” James said.

The total cost would be no more than $50,000 and would include a $2,000 bonus for each core teacher.

The stipends would provide a financial incentive for the teachers to remain in the schools, James said, thus decreasing staff turnover which has been an issue. The school system has already paid an additional $2,000 for teachers at Central Elementary and East Elementary.

“We need to help out our most at-risk schools,” James said.

Councilmembers expressed no reaction to the seemingly off-the-cuff proposal following James’ presentation about the progress of the school system. A day later, the general consensus is that while councilmembers are not opposed to the idea, they need more information before taking action.

Mayor Ronnie Michael said the council would take the superintendent’s proposal under advisement and consider it during their budget deliberations next year.

“The city does contribute to the school system by providing security,” Michael said.

The city provides two school resource officers — one for the middle school and one for the high school. The officers also help at the elementary schools.

Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall said since Monday night was the first time the council had heard about James’ proposal, it needs time to learn more.

“It’s time just to listen and look at the opportunities,” she said.

Hall noted that 25 years ago, before Albemarle City Schools merged with the county school system, the city had supplemented the schools.

She also brought up during the meeting that children living in the city go to 11 schools throughout the county, not just the four that are in the city limits.

Councilman Chris Bramlett said while he understands that the school system is trying to build a “first-class school system,” he wonders how it would financially work with only one of the municipalities in the county paying teachers.

Bramlett said more information would be needed before anything concrete goes into effect.

“My guess would be that we’re going to have to have some more discussions with him to find out exactly what he has in mind and under what rubric we would follow to make it happen.”

The council and school system should ultimately do what is best for the students, Bramlett said.

Councilwoman Shirley Lowder said James has done about as much as he can on his own to help the schools and so if the council can somehow find a way to provide additional funding for teachers, she would be for it.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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