It’s been an “enlightening” experience and transition for long-time Matthews Board of Commissioner Paul Bailey as he acclimates to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education District 6 seat.
The veteran Matthews board member won the board of education seat in last November’s election, leaving his post as Matthews mayor pro-tem. But leading a municipality is far different than leading a school system, Bailey said. Though he’s adjusted well, he said there is still a lot to learn and wrap his mind around to help improve CMS schools.
“I think looking at the first year (of serving on the board) is really getting established, and I still want to try and get out to the different schools in District 6, but I think the other aspect is understanding the programs we have in place and how affective those programs are,” Bailey said.
Jumping into the position officially in December, Bailey has spent much of the past several months learning the ins and outs of school board business, including where funding comes from and different limitations and restrictions added to certain funds that control how the district can spend its money, he said.
That knowledge is particularly important as CMS approaches one of their busiest times of year, planning and organizing the next year’s fiscal budget. It’s a tough task, Bailey said, as the system seems to be turned upside down since school districts are forced to plan a budget based on estimates of funding from their county, state and federal sources.
“Understanding all the different aspects from where the money comes from and what you can or can’t do with it – I thought that would take three to six months to really understand those things, and I’m on track for that,” Bailey said.
Budget workshops, community meetings and other community engagement initiatives are already under way for the 2014-15 budget. CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison was scheduled to present his budget recommendation to the board of education at its Tuesday, April 8, meeting, after Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s press deadline. Bailey said he expects a big chunk of next year’s budget increase to go toward teacher pay raises, hopefully a minimum of a 3 percent increase, he said. Other goals of this year’s budget include more support for students’ social and emotional needs through investments in counselors, psychologists and social workers; a greater emphasis on literacy support; and continuing to expand academic and personalized learning opportunities for all students, according to a previous budget workshop presentation.
Two more meetings on the superintendent’s recommended budget will be held later this month: on April 21, a Monday, at Hopewell High School in Huntersville; and on April 24, a Thursday, at South Mecklenburg High School in south Charlotte. Both meetings will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The public hearing on the budget will be held on April 22, a Tuesday, at 6 p.m. at the board of education meeting at the Government Center in uptown Charlotte.
So far, Bailey has been able to address small concerns from constituents at the school level. He said the best way to contact him with questions or concerns is to visit the Constituent Services section on the CMS website, www.cms.k12.nc.us, under the Board of Education tab.