O.C.E. funds ‘save’ day for city schools

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thanks to “O.C.E.” funds, the Troy City Schools will be able to continue all existing programs and will lose fewer than six teaching units for the 2011-2012 school year.

“This morning we are so thankful for some O.C.E. – or ‘other current expense’ money that came through and saved us this time,” said Mr. Jimmy Matthews, interim superintendent. “It’s not as grim as we thought it would be.”

Board members held a special called meeting Tuesday morning to approve the superintendent’s hiring recommendations prior to the end of the school year. The board voted not to renew contracts for seven professional staff members and five support staff members. In addition, the board granted tenure to seven teachers and a psychometrist and granted continuing service status to one school nurse.

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Teachers whose contracts were not renewed include Tina Adler, second grade; Joy Felch, elementary special education; Yvette Akridge, middle school math; Kelli Knick, middle school reading; George Bennett, middle school P.E.; Tiffany Oliver, high school English; and Matthew Norris, high school science.

Support staff members whose contracts will not be renewed include Doris Tolbert, ECC secretary; Diana Beach, special education aide; Kristina Senn, special education aide; Clarissa Darby, middle school custodian; and Mandy McGowin, middle school records clerk.

The employees granted tenure included Denise Barron, fifth-grade teacher; Pam Edenfield, first-grade teacher; Lise Kennedy Fayson, fifth-grade teacher; Jonathan Jordan, fifth-grade teacher; Jennifer Lindsey, elementary art instructor; Dana Sanders, sixth-grade English; Derek Irons, high school social studies; and Amanda Williamson, school psychometrist. Kitty Benton, elementary nurse, was granted continuing service status.

Matthews stressed that non-renewal of a contract does not indicate a position will remain unfilled in the upcoming school year.

“In some cases, the non-renewals were because we are losing a unit; in some cases, it was administrator recommendation … in some cases, we will be moving another employee into that position,” he said after the meeting. Those hiring recommendations will be presented at the June school board meeting.

The staffing decisions came after a long and difficult week for system administrators, who at one time feared they would lose more than 15 teaching units due to funding changes. After meeting with state officials, and by being able to tap into those state “Other Current Expense” funds, the total number of teacher units lost for the upcoming year is 5.62. said Mickey Daughtry, chief financial officer for the district. “It came down from 140 to 134 and a fraction,” he said.

The units funded by the state Foundation program are calculated based on two key factors: enrollment and a divisor created on a teacher-to-student ratio. Chreseal Threadgill, assistant superintendent, said last week the district took a “quadruple whammy” as the divisor increased and the enrollment dropped by some 45 students.

Several other factors also contributed to decreased revenue projections for the district in the 2011-2012 school year, including the loss of $2 million in federal stimulus funds and decreases in local sales tax revenues, driven in part by the decline in enrollment.

However, Daughtry said the pending education budget in the Legislature allocates approximately $3,000 per unit in additional O.C.E. funds over the FY2011 budget, which will net the district nearly $400,000 in additional revenues.

Those, combined with the assumption that the FY2012 budget will not include any cuts due to proration, allowed the system to move nearly $1 million of support staff expenses out of local funding and into the O.C.E. funding category. “The O.C.E. is designated to be used to pay for support staff – janitors, aides, busess … whatever is needed just to keep the lights on,” Daughtry said.

However, proration cuts in state funding during the previous two years have forced the district to tap into its O.C.E. funds to cover instructional unit costs, forcing the district to cover support staff from its local tax revenues and its cash reserves.

By allocating these support staff units back to O.C.E. funding, the district will be able “to basically keep all of the units that were being funded by the stimulus money,” Daughtry said. The system will fund 134 teaching units through state funds, including the O.C.E. funds, and an additional 16 units through local funds.

“Non renewals, retirements and resignations also helped us,” Daughtry said.