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Schools see fewer funds for supplies, textbooks

Budget cuts are still hurting school districts across the state,and one major hindrance the Brookhaven School District will seenext school year is in teacher supplies and textbook funds.

“We’re facing a crisis situation in public education,” saidSuperintendent Dr. Sam Bounds said at Tuesday’s school boardmeeting. “This year teachers received $700 that they could spend inthe classroom, but when they come back in August they will not havethat money.”

When state legislators funded the Minimum Foundation Programearlier this month, they drained $32 million from teacher supplyand textbook funds, said Bounds.

After assistant superintendents Lea Barrett and James Tillmantook a survey in the school district, they discovered that at leastteachers and students would not suffer tremendously in the textbookarea.

“Loss of textbook money will impact our district in K-8, but wehave some funds left over from this year that can be used,” saidTillman, adding that those grades would be affected the most.

Barrett found that 74 percent of Brookhaven High School teachersreported having an adequate number of books, and 68 percent saidtheir books contained fairly up-to-date information.

Teachers at Brookhaven Technical Center often find other fundingto purchase new textbooks, explained Barrett, so 100 percentreported being completely satisfied with the number and quality oftextbooks.

Elementary students may suffer the most when teachers have tosearch for other means to purchase classroom supplies, Tillmansaid.

“We will buy the needed items as long as the money holds out,”said Bounds.

Other areas affected by budget cuts are several positions in theschool district. Following the recent shortfalls and inanticipation of more cuts, 11 positions in the district wererecently abolished following guidelines of the Reduction In Force(RIF) policy

After one of those cuts was made public early Tuesday, schoolboard members fielded questions and concerns from parents in thedistrict up until the time of last night’s meeting. No parents werepresent at last night’s meeting.

“I have received several phone calls from parents primarilyabout the RIF of one of our band directors,” said Board Member Dr.Prentiss L. Smith. “They seem to be understanding . . . but they’reconcerned why this person with longer tenure in the district waslet go instead of one of the other persons.”

Bounds explained how the decision to terminate David McKinney”was not an easy one,” but it was one of the necessary cuts.

“We’re forced to make tough decisions because of these budgetconstraints,” said Bounds. “It’s not pleasant any time we have tolose a quality employee.”

Bounds assured the board that the termination “had nothing to dowith job performance” because, as evidenced by the numerous phonecalls, including one to The DAILY LEADER, McKinney had a positiveconnection with the students.

The RIF guidelines, which are available for viewing in Bounds’office, determine who should be let go by using a point scale inareas of education and experience, not merit.

“Employees are given three points for each year that they workin our Brookhaven School District, and employees are also given twopoints for each year they worked in another Mississippi SchoolDistrict,” explained Bounds, adding that other school districtsfollow similar guidelines.

McKinney served eight years in the district while another banddirector only had three years, which was one area of the parents’concern. Bounds pointed out that the other band director parentsspoke of also had a master’s degree and 19 years overallexperience.

Employees earn 10 points for an associate’s degree, 20 pointsfor a master’s degree, 30 points for a specialist’s degree and 40for a doctorate, he added.

After board members nodded their heads and seemed to understandthe policy, Amy Valentine, vice chairman of the board, asked whythe band was targeted in this cut, rather than some other area.

“Well, I looked at the number served, the district expense andwhere it would least affect the kids,” said Bounds. “We had threeband directors forever and just went to four band directors threeyears ago.”

The remaining three band directors continue to perform at thethree schools involved in the band program, so it will not beaffected, Bounds told board members.

Bounds pointed out how the band program was more fortunate thanother band programs in the country. The superintendent of MobilePublic Schools in Alabama abolished the band program six weeks ago,said Bounds.

Board members said they were appreciative of the phone callsfrom concerned parents wanting to be involved in the district.