Non-certified school jobs may take paycut

Friday, March 20, 2009

A 10 percent pay cut for non-certified employees was one of the money-saving steps the school board's budget committee looked at during their meeting Tuesday.

The Director of Schools, Dr. Stan Curtis, presented a list of must-haves for next year, and then a list of cuts in personnel.

"This was very difficult," Curtis said. "These are the ones that are sickening. We hope we don't actually have to get rid of anybody; we're counting on attrition and retirement, but other districts are looking at far more drastic things."

Tennessee's Basic Education Program guidelines helped Curtis decide where to cut positions. The BEP uses student numbers to determine how many teachers and support staff are needed at a school, and some schools in Marshall County have more than the BEP claims are necessary. Therefore, for example, Curtis said he would consider cutting four teachers, three assistants, and two custodians at Lewisburg Middle School, and three teachers and four assistants at Cornersville High School.

Interestingly, there are no cuts proposed for the Chapel Hill schools, and none at Central Office, though Curtis said he would not hire a full-time attendance supervisor, and would thing about cutting out a social worker.

"It's not a permanent solution, but it gets us a little flexibility right now," he said.

Curtis also proposed reducing the per-student expenditure on instructional supplies, and cutting down expenditure on instructional equipment, vocational supplies, maintenance, capital outlay, and professional development.

"If you save $30,000 to $40,000, you save a teacher's job," committee member Craig Michael pointed out. "This leaves us about $200,000 short of our goal," he added.

"Can we cut salaries?" asked committee member Dee Dee Owens.

"We can with support personnel," answered Curtis. "The others would have to be through the negotiated contract."

"We could make a 10 percent reduction in non-certified pay," said Michael. "I'd rather have a 10 percent cut than lose my job."

"We're talking about assistants, maintenance people, bus drivers, secretaries...there's no consistency in their salaries," said Curtis. "We want to listen to everything. We will work on the support staff pay scale, but it's a huge job."

The committee asked finance director Janet Wiles to run the numbers on a 10 percent reduction in pay for all non-certified employees.

They also spent a considerable amount of time discussing the supplement schedule, which had also been brought up at the preliminary negotiation meeting of the Marshall County Education Association with board of education representatives earlier that afternoon.

Supplements are paid to coaches and other teachers who work with students outside of normal school hours.

Michael informed the committee that the supplements had been the same fixed dollar amount since about 2002, and that a teacher taking on, for instance, a coaching job for the first year gets paid the same as a teacher who has been doing it for 20 years.

"Other counties use some type of percentage," said Michael.

"Yes," said Curtis. "Maury County capped it at 20 percent of salary - that's where they kept cost down. The funds there were assigned to the schools according to the number of students, and the principals decided how to allocate them."

"We don't want to do anything to hurt any sport," said Michael. "We're competitive in all but the major ones; we could consider trying to find a way to do something for the majors.

"Every school is approved to have the same sports, clubs, etc. If every school had everything they're approved for, the supplement cost would grow by 25 percent. It would be reasonable to request an estimate for each sport of how many hours the coaches work after school."

"We'll try to get that information for you quickly," Curtis said. "We could look at revamping the supplement style."

"There's one more piece to the puzzle," said assistant director Roy Dukes. "Don't forget Title IX (of the Educational Amendments of 1972, that mandates equal opportunity for women)."

"I'll work on this some more," said Michael. "This discussion has certainly helped."

"We need to know what sports there will be for next year in order to budget," said chairwoman Kristen Gold.

"I can do that," said Wiles, who also told the committee that the numbers so far this year weren't looking too bad: fuel costs had gone down, and the tax revenue was better than last year. She announced that there would be some federal stimulus funds for purchase of food service equipment.

Curtis' must-have list for the next school year included an assistant principal at Chapel Hill Elementary, a nurse for Chapel Hill, another science teacher for Marshall County High School, funds for the mentoring program and for science materials, and an upgrade to fiber optic cables. He would like to put the supervisors of instruction on 12-month contracts, but acknowledged this might not be possible.