City schools may cut teachers

Published 6:00 am Friday, April 1, 2005

Local school district leaders are contemplating teacherreductions as a result of education funding levels being discussedat the Capitol, but a Lincoln County senator remained optimisticthat no teachers would be lost once the budget impasse isresolved.

Brookhaven School District Deputy Superintendent James Tillmansaid a Senate-backed plan would leave the district about $700,000short of what it needs for next year.

Based on those totals, Tillman said 10 teacher units and someassistant teacher positions would not be filled next year. Somewould be left unfilled after retirements, while others would beactual reductions in force.

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“We know it’s going to hurt, but we’re trying to do it where ithurts the least,” Tillman said.

Tillman said as many as 10-12 assistant teacher units could becut. However, he said an exact determination cannot be made untilfunding levels are known.

Tillman said a House-backed plan would leave the district in abetter position, although he did not have specifics on how thedistrict would be affected under it.

“Hopefully, the Legislature will do something between now andSunday to fund education,” Tillman said.

The 2005 session is scheduled to end Sunday, but the session hasbeen extended to meet rules regarding passage of revenue measuresin the session’s waning days.

The House and Senate remained about $80 million apart on theoverall state budget. District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, though,said she was hopeful that progress was being made today.

“We may be a little closer on education,” the senator said,mentioning that negotiators were meeting to work out differences.”I think they have had a lot of encouragement from their colleaguesand constituents to get this done.”

Regarding the possibility of teacher cuts, Hyde-Smith said theworst-case scenario would be that schools would receive 4 to 5percent more in funding over last year’s budget.

“I don’t feel like there will be any teacher cuts,” the senatorsaid.

Hyde-Smith said state education officials had requested 15percent more in funding this year. She indicated lawmakers weredoing their best in the area of education.

“Our growth rate is not that high, but I certainly want us toget our fair share going to education,” Hyde-Smith said.

Tillman said district administrators are scheduled to meet withprincipals Monday to get their input regarding the budgetsituation.

“We’re looking at everything,” Tillman said.

Lincoln County School District officials have said they weretaking a wait-and-see approach regarding school funding and howthey would have to respond. Superintendent Terry Brister wasunavailable for comment on the latest developments.

While some Brookhaven teacher positions could go unfilled,Tillman said others, like high school math, must be filled.

In the area of administration, he pointed out that the districthad a superintendent and three assistants last year, whereas it nowhas a superintendent, a deputy and an assistant.

“That’s one position we don’t have …” Tillman said. “We’re nottop-heavy with administration.”

Tillman, mentioning reductions last year because of fundinglevels, said the district is “down to the bone.”

Tillman would not comment on the possibility of program cuts. Hesaid officials would be in a better position to discuss thosepossibilities following the Monday meeting with principals.

“We’re going to do what we must to make it, but it’s going to betight,” Tillman said.