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April 10, 2010
Dozens of teachers, paraprofessionals and office workers will lose their jobs if the Clarke County Board of Education approves the proposed budget in its current form.
But administrators are safe, after the board approved a reduction-in-force policy Thursday that states that administrators – who work under contracts – can not be laid off to save money.
The proposed budget lists the broad categories of employees who will lose jobs, but the individual people will be selected according to the rules in the RIF policy that the board approved Thursday night.
The school board is considering a $118 million budget for 2011. Anticipating about $9.6 million less revenue from local and state tax collection, finance officials plan to take some money from savings and cut about $3 million in spending to balance the budget.
While payroll costs make up the lion’s share of the school district’s budget, not all of the savings is coming from layoffs, said Ted Gilbert, associate superintendent for district services.
To save about $2.4 million, year-round employees will work a four-day work week during the summer, saving $51,000; the punitive alternative school will close, saving $1 million; and the district found a way to save about $1 million in transportation costs.
Of the $5 million the district is saving on payroll, three proposed furlough days will save $1.3 million and shifting funding for some previously locally funded positions to federal revenue will save about $1 million.
The new RIF policy allows Superintendent Philip Lanoue to decide which programs will lose positions. He also will decide which individual employees will be laid off based on their seniority. The policy exempts administrators from layoffs, according to the document.
The school system’s old policy allowed the superintendent to lay off employees based on job performance, but that provision could have led to legal problems because there was no clear-cut way to describe job performance, Lanoue said.
Some school board members disagreed.
“In a time of a budget crunch, when we’re dealing with larger class sizes, it’s even more important that we retain high-quality teachers, effective teachers – not just the teachers with the most seniority who are the most expensive,” said District 5 Board member John Knight. “It’s crucial that we look at their effectiveness and expertise.
“It would be great if the contract renewal and evaluation process weeded out low-quality teachers, but anybody who works in education will tell you that it does not,” he said. “… If we move forward with this policy and completely ignore the quality of teachers and only look at how long they’ve been with us, we will be doing our children a great disservice.”
Knight and District 8 board member David Huff voted against the policy, but it passed 6-2.
Under the proposed budget – which the board plans to give tentative approval to at a special meeting Thursday – about 50 elementary school and special education paraprofessionals would lose their jobs.
Parents fear a repeat of the battle that broke out last year when school board members tried to cut funding for all of the district’s first-grade parapros.
“Here we go again,” said Kim Sutherland, a member of the Barnett Shoals Elementary School PTO and the mother of a first-grader.
Schools need first-grade parapros to help students transition from the more playful world of kindergarten to the serious business of first grade, Sutherland said.
“They’re also talking about increasing the class sizes,” she said. “And, if you’re already increasing class size and then take the parapros away – that’s all of a sudden a lot of children for one person to watch and to make sure everybody’s staying on task.”
The decision to cut the special education parapros came after a review of the learning plans developed for each special education student revealed that the schools had more parapros on staff than the learning plans dictated, Gilbert said.
District officials proposed cutting 25 first-grade parapros, reducing the number from four per school to two per school. They’ve also proposed cutting six media center parapro positions, limiting those jobs to schools with at least 400 students.
Administrators have not decided which high schools and middle schools will lose teachers, but are recommending six layoffs at the high school level and eight in middle school, Gilbert said.
Administrators also have proposed cutting 7.5 jobs from the district’s central office.