- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—ABILENE, Texas — Abilene Independent School District’s teaching faculty and support staff could soon increase, both in numbers and in pay, if the school board approves a plan currently being discussed by administrators.

In a review during a special meeting and budget workshop Monday, officials presented potentially spending about $932,000 in salary increases and new hires for the 2015-16 school year, which begins Aug. 24.

Mark Neal, associate superintendent for legal and human resources, said the district could hire about $464,000 worth of new employees, including additional staff responsible for Response to Intervention at the elementary level, which addresses students failing to grasp basic concepts, as well as expanded Advanced Placement offerings in psychology and European history at the high school level.

With the high school courses, Neal said, the district needs to determine whether it can ask the current instructor to take on a larger role or if a new person would need to join the staff.

“We had been talking about adding a part-time teacher,” Neal said. “But it may be manageable for us to add responsibilities to the existing staff. Sometimes their schedules are full.”

The budget, as it is being developed, also includes an addition of one aide who would work with refugee students from Nepal, though the district has yet to identify the person who would take this role.

Neal also said an additional cost would come even though there are no plans to raise the health insurance contribution from $400 per month per employee to $425, a discussion held earlier this month.

If the contribution is held steady for a year, the district would still spend an additional $134,160, according to Neal, because some employees not spending more than $400 per month on insurance would see premium increases, which the district would pay.

On the revenue side, Executive Director of Finance Melissa Irby said the district is now projecting a reduction of about 225 students from the average daily attendance. It’s a drop brought on by the opening of the Texas Leadership Charter Academy at the old Valley View Elementary on North Eighth Street.

Exact figures aren’t available yet, Irby said, but he hopes they will be soon.

“We’ve actually requested the info from the charter schools, but we’re still waiting for that information,” Irby said. “We just want to make sure we get that right. Some of that’s going to be hard, though, because of kindergarten students. We’ll need to ask if they would’ve filtered into our school district or would they’ve been home schooled or attended private schools. We have to then look at addresses and see ‘OK, could they have enrolled in AISD?”’

Twitter: @TimothyChippARN

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(c)2015 the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas)

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