Letter from Our Superintendent
The Great Comeback
Reaffirming The Cumberland Commitment
Dear Cumberland County Board of Education:
As we navigate through our budget development process for the 2021-2022 school year, we remain incredibly grateful to you—individually and collectively—for your extraordinary leadership during these trying times. A year ago, I am certain no one imagined the catastrophic impact COVID-19 would have on our world, our nation, our state and even our county. However, all is not lost. From the very beginning of the pandemic until now, the herculean efforts of our premier professionals, faithful families and committed community partners have personified hope in the face of adversity. The resilience of our successful students throughout all of this continues to amaze me.
Now that we are turning the corner on a global pandemic that has shuttered school buildings across the nation, next year’s financial plan for student success (budget) request is more crucial than ever before. While some students thrived in a virtual learning environment, others experienced a multitude of challenges. With a sense of urgency, I recommend allocating significant resources to support students’ academic acceleration and address the social and emotional impact of the pandemic on the lives of our young people. We must also strengthen and upgrade our learning environments to handle the demands of in-person learning in a post-Coronavirus world. It is incumbent upon all of us to work imaginatively—so much is at stake. The learning and life outcomes of our 50,000-plus students are in our hands.
While we could not control the devastating effects of COVID-19 over the past year, how we respond in its aftermath is critically important. We can and we will come back from this, and it will be a great comeback. We have a plan. We are reaffirming our commitment to the actions outlined in The Cumberland Commitment: Strategic Plan 2024. Providing our students with equitable access to engaging learning that prepares them to be collaborative, competitive and successful in our global world remains our superordinate goal. The goals outlined in our strategic plan are even more relevant as we reimagine public education, how children learn and how educators teach.
As part of this year’s financial plan for student success preparation process, our team has built budget business cases to maximize the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and to address many of the pressing needs that exist in our school system. The following strategic plan aligned focus areas summarize those needs:
● intense support to combat learning loss and academic acceleration of learning;
● resources to support designated low-performing schools;
● technology expansion to support modern learning environments;
● additional school nurses, counselors, and social workers to support the needs of the whole child;
● family engagement to increase student success;
● principal-pipeline development to grow future principals;
● ventilation and HVAC evaluations to provide exceptional learning environments;
● Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safety supplies to promote a safe learning environment; and
● additional critical resources and supports.
While we have worked to focus ESSER dollars to improve academic achievement for all students, several urgent priorities remain. After carefully examining current expenditures, repurposing nearly $300,000 and deferring more than $1.8 million worth of identified needs, we recommend that the Cumberland County Board of Education request $88.1 million in local funding from the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. This represents an increase of 9.2 percent or $7.4 million over this year’s appropriation to fund our local budget priorities as detailed below.
● Creating Modern Learning Environments - $103,304: At the beginning of the pandemic, our district transitioned to a one-to-one learning environment, allowing all CCS students to use a Chromebook. We are committed to the long-term success of our one-to-one initiative. Increasing the number of Technology Services personnel will allow us to adequately support this initiative while expanding blended and personalized learning opportunities for students.
● Investing in Premier Professionals - $4,505,709: With a focus on recruiting top-notch employees and retaining our resilient educators and staff who have navigated through a challenging year, we recommend increasing the local supplement for teachers, assistant principals, principals and classified staff. It has been six years since the last supplement increase. During this pandemic, our education professionals have clearly reminded us all of the importance of public education. This request also includes funds to hire additional personnel to support school leaders and enable schools and students to thrive in the aftermath of COVID19.
● Maintaining an Exceptional Learning Environment - $135,962: There is a critical need to increase the number of project managers to address pressing facility needs at many of our aging buildings. These positions will help us respond to increased challenges presented by the pandemic.
● Addressing Anticipated Legislative Increases - $2,655,191: This request addresses anticipated salary and benefit increases as a result of projected state salary increases.
Considering COVID-19’s impact on Cumberland County, this budget request does not fully address all of the pressing needs that currently exist in our school system. However, we feel it is reasonable and provides the local resources to undergird our ‘comeback efforts.’ In fact, the recommended supplement increase and the anticipated legislative increases represent $7 million of the additional $7.4 million in local funding requested as part of this financial plan for student success.
As we look to the future and envision our school system in the aftermath of COVID-19, it is not about things returning to the way they were before the pandemic began. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we will engage students in robust learning experiences in Cumberland County Schools. In alignment with our strategic plan, this proposed financial plan for student success provides funding for the road map to help us get there.
In the interest of all children,
Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. Superintendent