Schools proposing job cuts

Published 10:28 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

School personnel were behind the eight-ball last year, facing the potential loss of their jobs, but after the school board voted to use $488,500 of fund balance and after county commissioners voted to increase the allocation to the school system, no longer did the possibility of unemployment loom.

That is not the case now.

When the board presents a draft budget in May, it will include reductions in 15 positions and programs including K-8 Spanish, some ESL (English as a Second Language) positions, and a sign language course (ASL) at the high school.

Superintendent Dr. Darrin Hartness said: “We can’t keep dipping into fund balance and we can’t expect the county commissioners to fill in gaps every time there are changes at the state level.”

He said the county has been generous with funding and with the recently adopted interlocal agreement. “If not for the increase in funding, we would be looking at more significant cuts next year.”

More than 80 positions have been eliminated since 2008-09, through retirement and resignations, and making the decision to eliminate 15 positions was not an easy one, Hartness said, but necessary, although not unexpected.

After the state legislature adopted a budget in the middle of the school year last year, administrators were directed to begin developing a plan to adjust staff for the upcoming school year. Traditionally, state and federal directives are given to school systems, but funding for those programs is rarely adequate.

The school system has experienced a decrease of about five percent in student enrollment, which affects funding, and retirement and health plans contributions, set by the state government, have increased by over 88 percent for retirement and 32 percent for health care. State allotments for teacher assistants, assistant principals, instructional and non-instructional support, supplies and materials have all decreased.

Davie was unique in the offering of Spanish to its younger students. Hartness said no districts surrounding Davie offer Spanish to elementary students, adding: “We held onto these programs longer than other districts.”

Forsyth County cut the program in 2011 and some other counties never offered it.

Some of the people who will be out of one job may find another in the system through retirement or resignation, and Hartness said teachers will be reimbursed the cost of tests to receive licensure for other positions.

Hartness said he is aware there are students at Davie High who have one semester of ASL behind them and need another semester to complete requirements for college. There could be a solution to that in the works, potentially in conjunction with Davidson County Community College, but talks are still preliminary.

“I hate not having these unique opportunities (K-8 Spanish and ASL) but we also run a business, and we have only so much revenue,” Hartness said. “Regardless of the circumstances, our focus remains on providing the best education we can possibly provide.”