ROCK HALL — The Kent County Board of Education approved a $30.88 million fiscal 2023 budget for county public schools at its meeting Monday night, May 9.
Before the board voted, members asked Superintendent Karen Couch about funding ALICE safety training, the future of the Sassafras Environmental Education Center and increasing the money available for teacher incentives.
Earlier in the meeting, board members received a presentation on school safety. During that presentation, Coordinator of Mental Health and School Safety Vandrick Hamlin said when ALICE training could be provided to teachers was contingent upon funding.
ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evade, is an active shooter training and preparedness education program that also looks at behavior risk assessments and provides social and emotional curriculum.
Supervisor of Student Services and Secondary Education Tracey Williams said the total cost of the ALICE trainings was about $63,000.
During the budget discussion portion of the meeting, Supervisor of Finance Alleesa Stewart said ALICE training could possibly be funded through ESSER — COVID-19 related relief funds. If the Maryland State Department of Education does not approve ESSER be used for the training, funds could be obtained through a safety grant. If that is not possible, the money would be spent out of the fund balance.
“I want to go on record saying that we’re committed to funding (the training) no matter how we have to do it,” said board member Trish McGee, who is also the editor of the Kent County News. “I don’t want the fact that we don’t have the money to be the reason we don’t do it, because I don’t want to have to tell somebody we didn’t have the money and that’s why this tragedy happened.”
The school system’s budget does not include funds to continue SEEC programming.
SEEC was previously funded through grants. When founder Wayne Gilchrest retired, he hoped the program would continue under new leadership.
Couch said that right now, the school system does not have the capacity to assume SEEC.
To help KCPS students meet the environmental literacy standards, Couch said they have reached out to the Sultana Education Foundation and Echo Hill to fill in the gaps left by SEEC.
“We’re not going to lose our sight in terms of our kids missing out. I want to make sure that they do have those environmental literacy opportunities,” Couch said.
Board Vice President Nivek Johnson also requested that funds be moved from a line item regarding tuition reimbursement and put toward incentives for teachers and students.
Ultimately, those funds were not moved.
No one from the public commented on the budget.
The board unanimously approved the budget with a 4-0 vote. Board member Francoise Sullivan did not attend the meeting.
Following the budget approval, Johnson moved to direct the administration to write a resolution that states the board will fund the crisis training. Johnson’s motion passed unanimously.