School officials say layoffs aren’t final yet
SALISBURY — Teachers who got layoff notices this week from the Rowan-Salisbury School System could still be re-hired over the summer, a spokeswoman said Wednesday morning.
Potential impact of school system cuts
Schools that could face teacher cutsBostian Elementary School - 2C. C. Erwin Middle School - 3C. T. Overton Elementary School - 1China Grove Elementary School - 3Cleveland Elementary School - 3East Rowan High School - 2Koontz Elementary School - 2Ethan H. Shive Elementary School - 1Enochville Elementary School - 2Faith Elementary School - 2Granite Quarry Elementary School - 2H. D. Isenberg Elementary School - 0E. Hanford Dole Elementary School - 2Hurley Elementary School - 3Jesse C. Carson High School - 4Knollwood Elementary School - 2Landis Elementary School - 2Millbridge Elementary School - 2Morgan Elementary School - 2Mount Ulla Elementary School - 2North Rowan Elementary School - 2North Rowan High School - 4North Rowan Middle School - 1Rockwell Elementary School - 1Rowan County Early College - 0Salisbury High School - 5South Rowan High School - 5West Rowan High School - 4Woodleaf Elementary School - 2North was the only middle school listed for cuts.
State statutes require that school systems notify any certified staff by May 15 if their contracts are not being renewed.
“This is part of a process we go through every year,” said Spokeswoman Rita Foil.
Foil said 50 teachers were notified Tuesday with hand-delivered letters that their jobs would be eliminated. Another 20 staff positions were identified to be cut through retirements, resignations or temporary employees.
She said the system hopes to bring at least some of them back once its financial situation is clear. The state and all counties are supposed to have the fiscal year 2013-14 budget approved by the end of June.
“At this point, we don’t really know what the state budget is going to look like,” Foil said. “We do this every year, and every year we’ve been able to hire back staff. Our hope is this would happen again, but we don’t know. That’s something we won’t know until final state budget has been approved.”
Similar notification letters have gone out to certified staff for the past few years, Foil said, though she couldn’t recall how many.
When it came time to finalize the budget each year, she said, the school board often found ways to avoid cutting classroom teachers and keep many people from losing their jobs.
Last year, it cut some vacant positions and moved some employees from eliminated positions to open ones. For the current year, the board chose to cut 40 support positions, including curriculum coaches and reading assistants.
Last week, the school system presented a request to Rowan County commissioners for a $4.6 million increase to help make up for lost state and federal funding, as well as state-mandated increases and other expenses. But commissioners said they can’t afford it.
Foil said the layoffs announced this week are based not only on expected state and federal cuts, but also on a projected drop in enrollment. The state funds a certain number of teaching positions based on the number of students enrolled.
“This is anticipating what’s the worst that could happen out there, and what do we feel could happen out there,” Foil said. “We prepare for that, but hopefully, that won’t happen. Maybe the state budget will come through for us and show strong support for education.”
The school board also could decide to cut its budget elsewhere to makeup for losses in funding.
Chuck Hughes, a member of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, stressed Wednesday that the notification letters are not official until the school board approves them.
“I want to assure those whose jobs are in jeopardy... that firing teachers and staff is one of the last issues we will consider,” Hughes said.
He said if positions must be cut, he hopes to be able to get rid of them through attrition instead of by laying people off. Other board members he’s talked to also want to look at other options, Hughes said.
“I’m not saying it won’t happen. I hope it won’t,” he said. “But if it does, I think it won’t happen in the numbers they’ve projected.”
Richard Miller, the school board chairman, was a little less optimistic on Wednesday. He said more than 80 percent of the school board’s operational budget is personnel.
“When you cut $24 million to $25 million, as we’ve done in the past several years, people are the only thing left,” he said. “Certainly, we want the classroom to be the last place we have to cut, but we don’t have many more options than that.”
Possible cuts previously identified by staff included reductions in instructional supplies, teacher assistants, media assistants, AIG staff and SCALE and enrichment programs. Also suggested is an increase in the class size formula by one student, which would cut about 30 teaching positions.
At this point, Miller said “all of those are on the table.”
Miller said the board likely will be asked to act on the layoffs at Monday’s meeting to make them official. Even then, they won’t be final until the school system approves its budget.
Foil gave the Post a list of the number of positions cut per school. According to that list, not all schools would lose teachers. Eight — mostly middle schools — would be spared from the layoffs, and most others would see two positions cut.
Salisbury and South Rowan high schools would lose the most positions — five at each.
Salisbury High School Principal Avis Williams would not give specifics, but she said her school is having to make some adjustments to its schedule in case the layoffs become final.
“We will have some classes slightly larger than they have been in the past, but not to the point where it won’t be manageable for most teachers — probably no more than two or three students,” Williams said.
Williams said that at Salisbury High, the decision about on cuts was based on “a combination of student needs and length of service.”
That means recent hires could be among the first to go, but only in those departments where the school decides it can cut positions. High schools need to balance the number of teachers who are certified in specific subjects, Williams said.
Foil said Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom met with her administrative team and principals to determine the allotted reductions to each school. The school administrators then decided which cuts to make based on certain criteria.
The Cabarrus County Board of Education is looking at eliminating about 94 teacher assistants and 10 exceptional children behavioral management technicians.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.