BRADENTON -- Two fresh faces officially joined the Manatee County School Board on Tuesday, and a returning member was signed in for another four years.
At the annual reorganization meeting, Charlie Kennedy and Mary Cantrell were sworn in as new school board members, serving the District 2 and District 5 seats, respectively. Karen Carpenter was also sworn in for a second term. The three terms expire in 2018. The board also elected Robert Gause as chair. Although Dave "Watchdog" Miner nominated himself for the post, he failed to earn enough votes from his colleagues. The board reinstated Miner as vice chair.
For new school board members, Tuesday night was surreal and a little nerve-wracking. Arriving late and breathless because of traffic, Cantrell celebrated her birthday as she joined the board. She turned 71 and was sworn in surrounded by her family. Kennedy was sworn in with a number of his family members, including his fiance, and two former students. In his first school board action, Kennedy nominated Gause as board chair.
"I was shaking like a leaf," Kennedy said of his swearing in ceremony. "It's a little surreal to be sitting up here right now."
Cantrell echoed similar comments and said she was excited to work with her colleagues.
"I believe this board will work very cooperatively together," she said. "I look forward to working with everyone here."
Carpenter said she was committed to working with the rest of the board to focus on children and learning.
School district employees will receive a raise after board action on Tuesday.
"This is aligned again to our commitment to re-invest in our employees," Superintendent Rick Mills said on Tuesday. The district expects to have pay raises retroactive to July 1 to employees by Dec. 18, in time for the holidays.
The board and the AFSCME union, which serves employees including bus drivers, approved a two-percent salary increase for the AFSCME workers, which includes bus drivers and maintenance workers. AFSCME members should see their backpay by Dec. 10, officials said.
The board and the Manatee Education Association also approved a two-percent increase to the total spending on salaries for the MEA union members, which includes teachers and paraprofessionals, but may not translate to a two-percent salary increase for each teachers and paraprofessionals. The minimum teacher increase is $544 and the minimum paraprofessional increase is $400.
The board also approved similar salary increase for the non-bargaining employees, which includes employees serving in supervisory, administrative, managerial and professional roles, which leaves no district employee uncovered.
The salary increase will be retroactive to July 1, 2014 and the total cost for all the contract negotiations and raises estimated by adding all the related agenda item costs is about $6 million.
While heralded as good news, newly elected board chair Gause cautioned that the current budget allows for the 1.75 percent increase, not the two-percent increase. Gause said the district is expecting extra revenue from the state for increased student enrollment that would cover the additional one-quarter of a percent, but said he wanted to make sure everyone on the board knew what they were getting into.
"It will not take us into negative fund balance but it will affect our fund balance. We are counting on getting that additional revenue," Gause said.
In other business on Tuesday:
In advance of the board meeting, officials from Team Success STEM charter withdrew a charter application. The charter -- which would be run by the same officials that run Team Success, a Title I charter -- was recommended to be denied by the district's committee that reviews charter applications.
With the withdrawal of Team Success STEM's application, no new charters will open in Manatee County for the 2015-16 year.
The board officially approved hiring Patrick Fletcher as the new Chief Information and Technology Officer for the district. Mike Borysiewicz resigned from the district in October, for unknown reasons. Fletcher, who will make $115,265 annually, previously worked as the director of information services for the Seminole County Public Schools from June 2010 to July 2014. He begins in the district on Dec. 1.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.