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School programs lost in BOE budget cuts

Two weeks removed from graduation night for the Class of 2009, the students and teachers who return to the ScrevenCounty school system for the first day of school Aug. 3 will face an array of educational changes.

And those alterations will need to be accomplished with fewer educators in charge.

For months, ScrevenCounty administrators and school board members examined various cost-cutting measures designed help ease the financial burden created by a sluggish local, state and national economy.

To free up money to handle system operations, a reduction-in-force was enacted to cut into the overwhelming expenses. With 86 percent of the school board’s budget devoted to personnel, the reduction would mean fewer instructors.

While slicing into payroll expenses by not renewing some teacher contracts for the 2009-2010 school year, programs were eliminated.

At the elementary school, teachers will be shuffled around to make effective use of the available teachers and the school will have one less administrator. The middle school’s educators – smaller in number -- will have less planning time, while art and technology classes will not be taught.

The high school will be down an administrator and teachers will instruct for an additional class each day as they educate six of seven periods. Chorus has been eliminated and replaced with a new music technology course.

The Crossroads alternative school for students with behavior problems now will split the children, based on age, between the middle and high schools.

The Performance Learning Center, a computer-based, credit-hour option for high school students, will be no more under that name as the nucleus of the program will instead become Technology Assisted Program for Success, or TAPS, and taught on site at SCHS.

Since its first year in 2005, the PLC has energized the county’s graduation rate. The 2008-2009 students who did not graduate May 22 from the PLC program are expected to be moved into TAPS.

“We are not hiring anybody new,” said Superintendent Whit Myers of the cost-saving maneuvers. “As of right now, we are trying to absorb any vacancies as they may occur.”

ScrevenCounty is one of numerous Georgia schools who have attempted to control spending through a variety of plans. Like other state school districts, the Screven school board agreed in April not to provide teaching degree-based supplements to educators.

An adjustment to the policy on the January supplements was made by the board which allows the members the option of giving the supplements if the budget can absorb it. Teacher supplements for extracurricular activities, however, remain in the budget.

“My fear is I don’t think we’ve hit bottom,” said Myers, who with other administrators have kept a watchful eye on educational budget cuts made by state and national lawmakers. As local residents know, the nation’s economic shortfalls have meant layoffs, reduced work hours and increasing unemployment.

“I am concerned with the local tax collection with people losing their jobs or their wages being cut back,” Myers said.

“I don’t think we are in a position to be spending money right now,” the superintendent said, “but also I am not interested in cutting any more right now.”

More teacher transfers still are possible though, Myers said.

 

Retirements announced

Administration removed 28 and a half teaching positions via reduction in force. The positions were eliminated by teacher retirements and resignations.

Along with teaching positions being nixed, five administrator jobs also will be dropped – one each at the elementary school, high school and PLC and two at the county office.

Retiring from the elementary school are assistant principal Connie Beasley; nurse paraprofessional Nancy Hunter; clerk Betty Nelson; clerk/in-school suspension instructor Gwendolyn Young; and teachers Donna Griffin from first grade, Angela Lee of second grade, Mary Frances Mock of kindergarten and Candy Sheppard of second grade.

Retiring at the middle school are media specialist Crickett Attaway and teachers Anita Lank of sixth grade, Pat Mealor of eighth grade and Glenn Thompson, who taught technology.

At the high school, assistant principal Sam Thompson and English teachers Michal Godbee and Ann Waters are retiring.

However, the board voted down an administration proposal in mid-January that would have given a one-time $10,000 bonus to educators with retirement credentials if those instructors voluntarily opted to call it a career.

Citing that the proposal might be too costly and too risky, the board members opted in a 4-2 vote not to entice the veteran teachers with the extra cash to help ease the impending reduction in force.

 

Resignations

During this change from the 2008-2009 to 2009-2010 school years, there also are employees who will not return for the new session that will begin in July. Myers said he received written letters of resignation from some, but not others on this list of 12.

At the elementary school, fourth grade teacher Eleanor Jackson; second grade educator Angela May; and first grade teacher Krystle White will not return.

As for the middle school, art instructor Jana Ward and eighth grade teacher Janice Zeigler will not return. Nancy Schriner, who taught chorus at the middle and high school, also will not return.

At the high school, culinary arts instructor Eugenia Cochran; mathematics teacher Page Paneral; physical education teacher Mike Ward; and Spanish teacher Joe Young will not return.

The PLC concept will not exist next year as TAPS comes into operation, but some of the PLC instructors will have new roles for 2009-2010. PLC social studies teacher Shana Brown and PLC/Crossroads teacher Arthur Davis, however, will not return.

 

Transfers

Some educators also will be transferred to different in-county schools and departments for 2009-2010.

Anita Anderson, a high school social studies teacher, will move to the middle school. Lori Ansley, a PLC English teacher, will head to the high school.

April Beasley, the system technology director, will become the sixth through 12th grade instructional technology coach. Barbara Brown, a middle school assistant principal, will change to a Response To Intervention/behavior intervention coach at the elementary school.

Dana Doss, a PLC science teacher, will return to her former teaching location of the high school. Rosalind Evans, a PLC math teacher, will work with the TAPS program and instruct other math classes at the high school.

Ella McAfee, a high school science teacher, will transfer to the middle school. Wanda Parrish, the director of Crossroads and PLC, will move to an assistant principal’s position at the middle school. Parrish was a SCMS assistant principal before assuming her role as alternative schools director.

Vette Rountree, a science educator and current high school “Teacher of the Year,” will transfer to the middle school. Joy Sheppard, the curriculum director for special education, will become a Response To Intervention/behavior intervention coach for the middle and high schools.

Lee Smoak, an eighth grade teacher, will move to the high school.

 

Federal funds create job opportunities

Myers said the federal stimulus dollars allotted to ScrevenCounty are funding two instructional technology coaches, two RTI/behavior intervention coaches, one middle grades instructor working with the Grade 8.5, a program for students who did not pass all the parts of the CRCT and are unable for promotion into the ninth grade.

“Without those stimulus dollars, we would have had to cut more less-experienced teachers,” Myers said.

The superintendent said ScrevenCounty can use the stimulus dollars for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. Funding those roles created by the stimulus, however, could be of concern in future years.

“We are banking on that we will have more articulation and the economy will improve,” Myers said.

“I think, as a school system, we are going to have to be careful not to bite off more than we can chew,” Myers said. “Next year is not a year to start a lot of new things. I don’t think we have the personnel numbers to start a list of new things.”

The school board chose to cut its budget by approximately $2 million in multiple ways – including reduction-in-force -- to avoid asking locals to fund a tax increase.

A reduction-in-force was done by the board because of a decrease in student enrollment in the school district which would necessitate a decrease in personnel or a discontinuation of programs; a loss of funds due to a reduction in state funds, reduction in local funds or other funds that make necessary a reduction in spending; and a lack of funding for programs, personnel, or services provided by the school district.

“This is still a work in progress,” Myers said, “but we are a lot better than we were a month ago.”

 

ScrevenCountyElementary School

The school system also will take advantage of State Superintendent Kathy Cox’s two-year waiver to allow additional students in classrooms.

Myers said in February that fourth and fifth grades can have as many as 30 students, but the administration do not plan to go that high. The superintendent said they tried to impact students in the classroom as little as possible.

 

ScrevenCountyMiddle School

Connections will take a hit next year with the elimination of technology and art. Jason Long, the SCMS band director, will also teach chorus next year.

The space that had been used for technology now will house middle-school aged Crossroads students as they use a computer-based format of learning.

School officials have yet to finalize how the art room space will be used.

Myers said J.R. Doyle will go back to teaching math after being a physical education instructor during the 2008-2009 school year.

Fewer SCMS teachers means the reduction of planning period time from 90 minutes down to 50.

This year also will introduce Grade 8.5, a midpoint between eight and ninth grade. If a student did not pass a part of the CRCT, that student may become one of as many as 20 to attend the new class that will be housed on the eighth grade hall at the middle school. The class will have its own teacher who will be paid for through federal stimulus dollars.

Along with readying the Grade 8.5 students to pass the CRCT, the pupils will be able to earn up to three credits – social studies (World Geography), physical science, and possibly an elective course in either business applications or technology.

The students who attend Grade 8.5 may be able to still catch up in grade level with their classmates if a school board policy is amended. The policy, school officials say, would have to change to allow students the opportunity to graduate from high school in three years instead of the current mandatory four.

 

ScrevenCountyHigh School

Because of the fewer number of teachers at the high school educators next year will instructor six on seven class periods. They have been teaching five classes on a seven-period schedule.

Some of the two planning periods for teachers in the past had been used for “Professional Learning Communities” with fellow educators in their specific departments. Myers said he expects that more of those learning communities will be held after school.

Crossroads for SCHS students will be conducted after school at the high school four days a week. Myers said the students will use the TAPS facility to have access to computer usage.

Chorus will be eliminated at the high school, but a new music-based course has been added. A music technology course will be taught by director of bands Chris Harper, who took a graduate advanced music technologies course at TroyUniversity in the summer of 2008.

“The (college) class, two of us, was challenged each and every day to learn about sound properties, sound reinforcement, acoustics, in depth sessions about mixers, microphones, and some software,” Harper said. “From that course, sparking a strong interest, I began to seek out more information and see what applications I could incorporate into my personal music and possibly with the band program.”

SCHS principal Brett Warren asked Harper about teaching a music tech course for the fall.

“Music technology is a hot field right now, I am in at the right time,” Harper said.
Some items the course will cover will be sound system design (interior structures); mixers; microphones; recording into Garageband and Logic Pro; sound processing/production; true analog synthesis; synthesis through software; sequencing with different software programs; music notation software; and other projects depending on students’ direction.
“It is a class that is more than just creating beats,” Harper said. “Anyone can get a copy of FL Studios and make a beat. I am doing some training this summer on three programs that I wish to introduce to the course.”