CHIPLEY - In a 4-1 vote, Washington County School Board members approved a program that reimburses teachers for achieving additional educational credentials.

The vote took place at Monday night's school board meeting. While there was little discussion about the overall program, School Board member Vann Brock told his fellow board members that he had to "follow his gut" seconds after he voted against the item.

"My position was it was so narrow and so focused and I thought that moving forward, this could open Pandora's box to other things that might be unforeseen," Brock said after the meeting. "When you target such as small group, then if you have other curriculum that comes up that might have to have special degrees or special certifications, then do we not come back and help those folks reach those goals to teach?"

Brock's sentiments were not isolated. Vice Chairwoman Dr. Lou Cleveland, who drafted the program, had mentioned that some teachers had expressed concern that the program is aimed at a very small pool of teachers. According to the scholarship agreement, the program is available to math, English and psychology teachers who will teach dual-enrollment classes. The capacity for the program is three teachers - one math and English teacher at each area high school. One position is currently filled.

"We would love to support (all of) our teachers getting their masters and getting their qualifications, but the district can't afford it," Cleveland said.

Cleveland said she believed the board recognized the cost savings for offering dual enrollment classes to students at the school district level, rather than funding college-level courses at colleges.

"I'm really thrilled ... I've been grateful for this process," Cleveland said. "I think it's so important to keep our dual-enrollment classes in our high schools and I'd love to see a full class at Vernon (High School)."

"And it's a savings to the district - they'll save thousands of dollars," she added. 

The agreement states the school district will reimburse up to $18,000, contingent on the teacher providing tuition receipts and maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher in each class. Currently, the certification to teach college-level courses require a masters degree and 18 graduate semester hours in the appropriate subject area; or a masters degree with a major in math, English, history or science. 

"We want (students) to stay on campus, that's the bottom line - we want to keep them here," said Chairwoman Sue Roberts.

Also at the meeting the board tentatively approved the following schedule to set its millage: approval of tentative millage and budget for advertising - 5 p.m. Monday, July 23; budget hearing to adopt the tentative millage and budget for fiscal year 2018-19 - 5:05 p.m. Monday, July 30; and budget hearing to adopt the final millage and budget for fiscal year 2018-19 - 5:05 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10.