Mandates force personnel cuts for schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Staff Writer

More than 30 teachers in the Pike County schools will receive pink slips on the last day of school.

Monday night, the Pike County Board of Education made the difficult decision to terminate 32 teachers and not renew contracts of non-tenured personnel.

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Board President Linda Steed said the decision will also mean no more than six aides will be back for the 2000-2001 school year.

"It is very hard," Steed said of making a decision to terminate employees. "Some of these people have worked with our system a long time."

The decision was all because of money – or a lack thereof.

Dr. John Key, superintendent of the school system, said keeping the personnel would put the school system "$512,000 in the hole" and terminating the teachers had to be done to keep the school system in operation.

"It isn’t something we want to do," Key said during the meeting Monday night. "It’s a very sensitive thing and it’s not something we entered into lightly."

Although some of those non-tenured teachers will return to the classroom next year, many will not.

"We didn’t have any choice," Steed said. "You never want to lay anyone off."

Reasoning for the lay offs are the result of decisions made in Montgomery, Key said.

"Our Legislature and our governor have really thrown us a blow," Steed said.

Approximately 20 percent of the system’s At-Risk funds have been taken, shaving the fund from $160,000 to $130,000, Key said. On top of that, 20 percent of the reduced amount will be spoken for because of the mandate.

Key said this is the first time since he has taken office as school superintendent that authority of the Pike County School Board has been "significantly reduced" by the state.

"More and more authority is being taken away," Key said of power being stripped from the local authorities. "If it doesn’t stop, you won’t have any authority.

"In my opinion, if it keeps going like that, we ought to turn it over to the state and say, ‘run it,’" the superintendent said.

While it’s obvious some individuals will be affected by the lay-offs, the students and parents will also feel it.

Steed said Monday’s vote is "going to hurt" the school system.

She remembers a time when parents scrubbed the bathrooms and provided toilet tissue because janitors had to be let go.

Key said janitors and secretaries could be affected in the future, just as they have in the past.

Based on Key’s recommendation, the board voted to ask the Pike County Commission to put a one-cent sales tax to a vote. The board is requesting citizens be allowed to vote on a tax increase for public education as early as the Nov. 7 General Election. Steed said the board wants the tax to be in effect for no less than 30 years.

"We are in extreme need," Key said of the tax that would put money in the coffers of both the county and city school systems.

Key said the Pike County School System currently get about $1.2 million from the sales tax.

Although some may not support a sales tax increase, Steed said helping education will benefit the entire community in the long run.

"In order for our economy to prosper, we’ve got to have a good educational system," Steed said of how the sales tax increase will help the community.

School board member Norman Chandler abstained from the vote regarding the sales tax.