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Schools offering teacher contracts

Brookhaven School District teachers this week began receivingmore than verbal assurances that they will have jobs, as thedistrict began issuing contracts for the next year.

“There’s a certain comfort level to having a contract in hand,”said Lea Barrett, superintendent of the district. “We’re basing ourcontracts on this year’s budget. We’ll have to revise that toreflect any adjustments the Legislature makes.”

The contracts will not prevent the district from increasing thesalaries of teachers later should the Legislature pass themandatory teacher pay raise, Barrett said. It does prevent thedistrict from offering less money, but under Mississippi law itwould be illegal to issue a salary at less than the previous year’sbase salary anyway.

Barrett said the board of trustees consulted with Bob Allen, theboard attorney, and with the Mississippi Association of SchoolSuperintendents to see what other districts were doing beforemaking its decision to issue contracts.

Responses to the budget quandary in other districts vary,Barrett said. Some districts are issuing teacher contracts, othersare doing nothing and still others continue to offer only verbalassurances that teachers will have jobs next year.

“It’s a very uncertain time for teachers,” she said. “I worryabout our younger teachers. They need to have a sense of assurancethat they will have a job when they go home this summer.”

Under the Education Employment Procedures Law, teachers who werenot notified by April 15 that they would not be rehired must beprovided with a job the next year. However, the EEPL does not applyto teachers in their first year with a district or those with lessthan two years’ teaching experience.

“Although they are not protected under that law, in order tohave a school we have to have a certain number of teachers onstaff,” Barrett said. “I don’t anticipate having to cut any morepositions.”

Some positions, however, have been frozen. Those positionsbecame vacant when teachers retired or accepted a position inanother district. They may or may not be filled depending on howmuch money the district receives when the state budget isfinalized, Barrett said.

“Nobody knows. We don’t have a crystal ball. The law requires usto have a budget in place by July 1, and this is one of the stepswe’re taking to meet that requirement,” she said.