Parkside Builders President Brian Chastain (second from right) recently presented a $50,000 check to Gallatin High School principal Ron Becker (far left), Shafer Middle School principal Tommy Oglesby (far right) and Rucker-Stewart Middle School principal Pamela Harrison (second from left). The donation is to improve technology in Sumner County Schools.

The Sumner County School Board approved plans to pay a 1 percent bonus to employees in April.

At the board’s Feb. 23 meeting, Sumner County Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips said that the district was looking to give a 1-% bonus on full-time employees’ April 15 paycheck. The state legislature, in its January special session, approved extra, non-recurring funding for certified teacher salaries. In Sumner County, that will account for $1.267 million, Phillips said.

But based on past precedent, Phillips said the district would provide that bonus to all full-time employees. The district would use unassigned fund balance to make up the remainder of the amount needed to cover all full-time employees, which would be approximately an additional $641,000.

“We’re in good enough financial shape so we can go ahead and pay that in April,” Phillips said. “Our employees will feel that.”

District 9 board member Patricia Brown said that she was “against it totally” before eventually softening her stance.

“They get where they expect it, and I think they have a very good salary with the cost of living in Gallatin and surrounding places,” Brown said.

District 8 member Ted Wise said that staff deserve the bonus for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s too bad we can’t multiply it by three,” Wise said. “Teachers are working twice as hard to accomplish what they accomplished five years ago. That’s the right kind of people you want there in the classroom.”

Ultimately, the plan received unanimous approval from the board despite Brown’s initial objection.

The Sumner County Commission will have to approve a budget amendment for the bonus plan before it can go forward.

Phillips also acknowledged a $60,000 donation by Facebook to the school system to improve Internet access in rural areas of the county.

One possibility is using the county’s EMA towers to place remote access connections and create a closed network only accessible to school-issued computers. Phillips said that some testing could take place this summer to see if such a program would be feasible.

Phillips also acknowledged a $50,000 donation by Parkside Builders to the district to help close the digital divide.

“Community partners like Parkside Builders serve to strengthen, support and even transform the scope of education,” Phillips said. “This donation will make a significant impact on our ability to equip our students with the skills and knowledge our children need to be successful. We are appreciative of the generosity of Parkside Builders.”

Parkside Builders President Brian Chastain presented a check on Feb. 23 to principals at Gallatin High School, Shafer Middle School and Rucker-Stewart Middle School.

“We wanted to make sure students had an opportunity to be equipped and not at a disadvantage with technology,” Chastain said in a statement. “We would like to see other companies in the area match this donation and would love to come back with another donation in the future.”

Board members also voted to accept a bid of $864,400 to tear down the old fieldhouse at Westmoreland High School and build a new one.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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