Final decision contingent on county’s contribution to school budget
During a continuation meeting on Monday night, the Board of Education met in closed session to discuss budget shortfalls. After the closed session, Interim Superintendent Dr. Jim Duncan announced that he would be sending a letter to 31 probationary first-year teachers to notify them that at this point in the budget process, their positions would not be filled in the 2013-14 year.
“Due to a significant decline in the financial resources of the school system, I will recommend to the School Board that all teachers who have a one-year probationary license that ends June 30, 2013, or a lateral entry license not be renewed for the 2013-14 school year,” said Dr. Duncan. “The school board will act on my recommendation at its next meeting on May 28. There are certain benefits available to the teachers but those are incomplete until such time as the board acts on the recommendation.”
Dr. Duncan said the possibility of inadequate funding is the reason for sending out the letter. By law, the Board of Education is required to notify teachers of the possibilities of the job loss by May 15.
“By law, our superintendent has to send letters out by May 15,” said Board Chairman Jim Breedlove. “No action is being taken tonight and will not take place until the 28th of May when we meet again. We are trying to delay our decision on something that will directly impact the teachers until we know more about the funding from the county.”
The final decision to dismiss the 31 teachers will depend on the outcome of the county commissioner’s meeting being held on May 20 in Highlands. The Board of Commissioners is expected to discuss the 2013-14 budget at their next meeting. The Board of Education plans to have more information about funding sources from the county at that time, which will allow them to make a more informed decision and take final action on the superintendent's recommendation to not renew the teacher contracts.
“It is one of those thing where you have no other choice at the present time,” said board member Gary Shields. “We do not know what allotment that the county will give us at this point and by law we have to notify the teachers of that uncertainty.”
Shields is optimistic that the county will closely look at the school board's budget request and will find funding to make up for the school system's shortfall.
“We hope that the county does everything they can do for the school system,” said Shields. “They have to see what they are able to do and I am sure that they will do the best with what they have. When we know more about what our funding will be for next year, if it is possible to keep those positions, we hope the teachers will reapply.”
In April, the Board of Education presented the county with a preliminary budget that asked for $9,567,455 in local funds to operate next school year, an increase of $2,656,455 over what the county committed for the 2012-13 school year.
County commissioners are set to meet May 20 at 7 p.m. in Highlands at the Highlands Civic Center, located at 600 North 4th Street. The Board of Education's next meeting will be help at 6 p.m. at Nantahala School on May 28.
Written with contribution from Bobby Coggins of Macon Media.