With increasing turnover now part of the Floyd County High School teaching staff, the students and veteran faculty start a new year Tuesday with 22 new faces in front of students.
Part of that turnover comes from retirements and part from teachers who are moving on to higher-paying jobs and positions at other systems with more stability than the “maybe or maybe not” budgets of recent funding for the county school systems.
Both newer and veteran school teachers say they are losing confidence in what they call the “at the brink” school budgeting cycle and increasing fights between the county board of supervisors and education superintendent Kevin Harris.
“Our school system is at the brink,” says one longtime teacher. “I’m not sure that our public education system is a high priority with many of our supervisors. Too much politics and not enough support to the schools.”
Teachers, parents and students say they are often held hostage between headstrong supervisor chairman Case Clinger and Dr. Harris.
Clinger, a hardliner on taxes, kept tax rates at the same rate in recent years, a practice that school officials claim is threatening the future of the school system and bringing a larger — and more difficult — tax increase in the next year or two.
Clinger is also in the middle of a tax mess at his Pizza Inn business where customers were overcharged by thousands of dollars in sales taxes for more than a year.
Harris shows frequent impatience with what he considers petty interference by Clinger on even routing budget matters. Tensions between the two appear on the rise.
Floyd County’s school system infrastructure is outdated and in need of new construction and buildings. The county-wide high school is more than a half-century old and is the system’s newest structure. Most school buses contain far more than 100,000 miles and breakdowns increase and officials worry.
“What we have is two headstrong leaders — the two most powerful officials in the county — caught in a war of egos,” says one veteran school teacher. “In such a situation, no one really wins and the students lose.”