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City schools making cuts in teaching positions

School superintendents have begun making personnel cuts to meettoday’s state-mandated deadline for notifying teachers that theircontracts will not be renewed for next year.

Superintendents say they cannot adjust their budgets for the newyear until they know how much money they have, something they won’tknow until have Gov. Haley Barbour calls a special session nextmonth to finalize the state budget.

Legislators adjourned their regular session without a budget forthe first time in memory.

School districts have the option of informing some teacherstheir contracts will not be renewed, with the hope of rehiring themlater, or renewing their contracts and accepting losses in otherareas of the budget, the full impact of which won’t be known untilthe state budget is finalized.

“We are going to hold tight, and that’s going to hurt some ofour programs, frankly,” said Brookhaven School DistrictSuperintendent Lea Barrett.

What programs would be hurt largely remains to be seen, shesaid.

A total of seven teacher positions and one administrativeposition are being eliminated, Barrett said.

Of those seven, one teacher will not be renewed unless thatposition is again federally funded, three positions will beabsorbed by distance learning, and two teachers, one retiring andone relocating, will not be replaced. Additionally, one teachingposition has been cut based solely on projected estimates of thedistrict’s budget, Barrett said.

The teachers replaced by distance learning will mean somestudents to tune in to another class being taught elsewhere in thedistrict. Through technology, students taking distance-learningclasses can still ask questions and get immediate teacherresponses, Barrett said.

The retiring and one relocating teachers will not be replaced,and that loss “will have a significant impact of two of ourprograms,” she said.

Both subjects are required in school curriculums, but ratherthan having them as separate programs they will be incorporatedinto other teacher’s schedules, Barrett said.

Barrett would not identify those programs or whichadministrative position would be eliminated until the final budgetwas released in the hopes adjustments could be made later.

Future personnel cuts are expected when the district knows howmuch money it will have, she said. She said it is possible that upto 20 noncertified personnel, such as teachers assistants andcafeteria and maintenance workers, will be lost.

The superintendent also responded to Barbour’s comments that heis not cutting education since the state is funneling more moneyinto K-12 education than they did last year.

“I think what’s being lost on the people is that he may beincreasing funding, but he is not meeting the increase caused bystate-mandated programs,” Barrett said, specifically citing thefinal installment of teacher pay raises begun five years ago.

The Brookhaven School District is receiving $310,000 more instate funds than last year, she said, but the cost of the teacherpay raise alone is more than $1 million.

Barrett said the state did the same thing to districts last yearand they managed to cope by tapping into one-time funds, but thisyear any further cuts would start affecting programs.

“Now we’re in the process of making problematic cuts,” she said.”I appreciate having to balance the budget, but not on the backs ofK-12.”

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Brister wasunavailable for comment Friday but said earlier in the week thatthe district was strong and would be able to overcome with someadjustments.

“We’re looking at two or three different budget scenarios, andwe’re working from the worst to the best. It will be detrimental,but we should be able to overcome,” he said.

Brister did not outline any plans nor say if any teachers’contracts would not be renewed. No nonrenewal notices had beengiven as of Wednesday.

“We’re trying to do what we can to have the least amount ofpersonnel changes, but we have to be ready for it,” Bristersaid.

This time last year, in much the same situation, superintendentswere forced to cut teachers and attempt to rehire them later afterdetermining the budget.

Brookhaven School District passed out 17 nonrenewal notices lastyear, and the Lincoln County School District handed out 20. Thedistricts also released several noncertified employees.

Many of those teachers were rehired when the budget wasfinalized, but several had already accepted positions in otherdistricts. Some others remained cut due to lack of funding.