Board eliminates teaching position

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A teacher's job was eliminated as school board members cut their budget Monday night, hoping to come up with a budget that's acceptable to recently elected county commissioners.

Discussion among school board members at the special called meeting revealed that the alternative school has two full-time teachers for less than 20 students. So they asked Lisa Ventura, supervisor of special education, how many students were in alternative school last year. She replied there had been a maximum of 17, but 23 had been served in the course of the year.

"That's eight students per teacher," Randy Perryman pointed out. "At Forrest Middle School they have about 31."

Barbara Kennedy agreed.

"It seems a little disproportionate," said Kennedy, who suggested they "try to make do" with one teacher and one aide in alternative school.

Kristen Gold said, "No one wants to eliminate a position."

So, the board's budget committee chairman continued, "I don't want to put anyone out of a job, but we have to decide how to spend the money."

After a recess to consult their lawyer, the board returned to the table and chairman Mike Keny announced that attorney Sam Jackson had advised the board has the authority to cut a position and that it's not required to pay that teacher's salary for the rest of the year.

"I don't feel comfortable doing that," Curt Denton said. He then tried to amend the motion already on the table that called for cutting one teacher at the alternative school.

Keny consulted Robert's Rules of Order and declared Denton's amendment was out of order, so the seven board members present passed the motion 4-3, with Denton, Dee Dee Owens and Ann Tears voting no.

Other cuts to the budget merely reflect current realities:

* A new director of coordinated school health has been hired at a much lower salary than the previous one, saving over $44,000;

* An elementary teacher's job that was in the budget has never been posted or filled, so that saves about $57,000; and,

* An administrative assistant to the supervisors of instruction has not been hired, saving $41,000-$51,000.

And, the new assistant director of schools, Ken Lee, won't be paid at his new salary until he takes up the job, thus saving three months of the higher salary the board approved for the assistant director.

Gold and schools director Roy Dukes told board members they had a "very positive" meeting with county mayor Joe Boyd Liggett and county commission budget committee chairman Mickey King last week.

"I thought it was a good meeting," Dukes said. "They realize what we need in terms of educated young people."

Gold said Dukes had prepared a list of non-recurring expenses that were in the budget -- as previously proposed -- that won't be there next year, and they total more than $600,000.

County commissioners have rejected the board members proposal to spend $817,000 of their fund balance this year, but with explanations that three-quarters of this is non-recurring and the other cuts, the new commission might pass a school budget this month.

Budget director Sheila Cook-Jones will revise the budget with the new numbers, and school board members hope the county commission's new budget and education committees can make a favorable recommendation after a joint meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

A public hearing on the county's budget is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 9.