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Board cuts school jobs

by Larry S. Chowning

The mandate from the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors for the school board to cut 5% from its proposed school budget has resulted in the elimination of 10 positions.

Seven of the cut positions will result in the layoff of active employees.

One core instructional position and two bus driver positions will be eliminated through attrition.

The seven layoffs were 1.5 para-professional positions, one lunch room monitor, a half-time special education position, 2.5 non-core teaching positions, and 1.5 custodial positions. 
Also, one position was “partially” eliminated in the central office by restructuring the county gifted program.

Teaching positions eliminated were the home economics position at St. Clare Walker Middle School and the band instructor position at Middlesex High School.

A full-time French teaching position at MHS was cut to half-time.

There was parental support to keep all of the cut programs at Monday’s school board meeting. Most of the support for keeping French came from parents and grandparents who have children taking classes at MHS and need another year to finish the program.

Near the end of Monday’s meeting, school board member Richard Shores asked school superintendent Rusty Fairheart to address the matter. Fairheart indicated those students currently taking French will be “accommodated with a teacher in a classroom.” The plan, however, is to eventually phase out the program, he added.

There was also discussion of the band program at the meeting.  The school system currently has two band instructors, one at MHS and one at St. Clare Walker.

The position of band director at MHS has been eliminated, and will be filled by sharing the band director currently at St. Clare Walker.  A band student who was recently accepted to a music college attributed his success to the current band director at MHS, and expressed disappointment that he was losing his job.

Fairheart said that the loss of the band director’s position in “no way” reflects the quality of job the director has done at MHS. “We have been forced to make some hard decisions and this just happens to be one of them,” he said.

A parent of a band student said, “Many students will suffer for years to come” because of this decision. She also suggested that the school system’s decline in student enrollment might be linked to limited programs offered by Middlesex schools.

One parent questioned eliminating the home economics program at St. Clare Walker. “We regret this, but we have no alternative,” said board member Jim Goforth.

“It’s not our plan to make these cuts permanent,” said board member Lee Walton. “We are concerned about the children. We want to accommodate everyone, but I don’t think we can.”

At the start of the budget process for fiscal year 2009-10 (FY10), the school system along with all other county departments were asked by county administrator Charles Culley to find ways to cut 5 percent in local funds from their budgets.

Assistant county administrator Marcia Jones said that when school officials came back and requested “level funding” (the same funding as in FY09), supervisors mandated the 5% cut. This cut also was mandated to all other departments that the county controls, noted Jones.

Budget cuts for the regional jail, courts, and comprehensive services cannot be mandated by the county, and their budgets did not go down.

Supervisors also cut county contributions to the Middlesex YMCA and Middlesex County Library by 5 percent, but they did not cut contributions to the county volunteer fire and rescue squads. In FY10, the YMCA will receive $47,500 in county funds; the library, $102,600; the two rescue squads will split $139,460; and the four fire departments will split $200,000.

The board voted to approve a $13,162,579 school budget for 2009-10.  The local share is $6,700,850; the state’s share is $4,306,799; and the federal share is $743,098. The total school system operating budget in FY10 will be 3.76% less than in the current (FY09) budget year.

The school board also voted:

  • To raise the tuition of out-of-county students from $2,700 to $3,000 in FY10, with all students currently in the system to be “grandfathered” at the current $2,700 rate.
  • To change the meeting day for the month of June to Monday, June 1, instead of the second Monday in June.
  • To change the 12-month summer employee work schedule to four days per week. The working hours will be 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. on Thursday.

  • The school system’s central office at the Cooks Corner Office Complex will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and closed on Friday.

    posted 05.13.2009

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