Assistant teachers have received non-renewal notices.
Teacher positions left vacant from retirements or resignations have been cut.
And budgets have been slashed across the board.
Throughout the state, school districts are faced with cutting areas they never have in the past. And one thing is clear as school leaders struggle to preserve the classroom: Nothing is sacred.
Lowndes County schools cut 12.5 teacher positions through attrition, some of which were special education positions the state is not funding. The district also cut six teacher assistant positions.
Columbus schools cut 23 certified positions and 16 support staff positions.
Oktibbeha County schools cut 15 of 30 assistant teacher positions; they also cut five of 90 teacher positions through attrition.
Starkville schools idled about 25 assistant teachers of more than 58 and did not replace 13.5 certified positions left open because of retirement.
Clay County School District left one teacher assistant position unfilled after a retirement. The district expects $200,000 less in state funding this year, which “is huge” in a district of only about 150 students, said Mae Brewer, Clay County superintendent.
“As far as us, we haven”t changed. We just didn”t rehire,” she noted.
West Point School District cut 41 positions, in hopes of shaving $3 million off its expenditures — 24 teaching positions, 16 assistant positions and an administrative position.
In the 2010 school year, West Point schools boasted a 12-to-1 teacher-student ratio, traditionally among the lowest of Golden Triangle school districts.
With the cuts, the district still will meet the accreditation requirements for teacher-student ratio (27-to-1 in grades five-12 and 25-to-1 in K-four), she said, but the changes hitting the classroom are necessary evils.
“There was no area untouched,” said Susan Cothren, business manager for West Point schools, of budget cuts throughout the district. “We cut in supplies, we cut in equipment, staff, athletics — everything was cut.”
Lowndes County Superintendent Mike Halford echoed Cothren”s sentiments.
“We cut 10 percent in every budget with exception to the individual schools” budgets,” Halford said, noting the district also managed to preserve technology and maintenance funds.
“We did not touch the maintenance money. … You take money away from the maintenance of the schools, then all of a sudden, I”m replacing a school 10 years sooner than I would have,” Halford explained. “Technology is a lot like the maintenance of your buildings. Once you get behind in keeping up your computers, you never catch up.”
Columbus schools” focus as it tackled budget woes was “protecting the integrity of classroom instruction,” Columbus Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips said.
“With careful planning and belt-tightening measures, the district was able to maintain low class size and provide essential programs and services to support student achievement,” he added.
All Columbus schools” non-teacher employees took a 10-day decrease in pay, and certified teachers who previously were assigned to non-classroom tasks were assigned back into the classroom to keep class sizes at a 19-to-1 ratio.
Additionally, Columbus School District focused on energy conservation with computer-controlled heat and air, sensor-controlled lighting, timers on water fountains and software to automatically shut down computer equipment.
“Where we”re trying not to cut is instructional services to our students,” Judy Couey, superintendent of Starkville schools, said.
Starkville consolidated schools, “to maintain teacher-student ratios and eliminate positions through attrition,” Couey noted.
“Simply by eliminating one-grade schools, you”re not duplicating faculty at those schools,” she explained.
Using GPS, the district planned more efficient transportation routes; they also worked to eliminate overtime.
In Oktibbeha County, Superintendent James Covington still is wrestling with the district”s budget, anticipating a 12-percent loss in state funding.
“Because things are so tight, we are just trying to make sure we are able to account for expenditures, anticipated revenue. We are still going through the budget line by line,” Covington said, noting he”s “looking at reducing hours at our central office” as a cost-saving measure.
He plans to have a budget in place for presentation to the school board Monday night.
The school districts” budget year begins July 1. And the state traditionally made cuts well into the schools” fiscal year. However, cuts have never been so drastic. So school officials are left planning for the inevitable while wondering where else they can cut.
Cothren added, “And we”ve already been told to expect cuts after July 1.”
Dollars and cents
- Lowndes County School District, in the 2009-2010 budget year had $48.29 million in revenue from local, state, federal and 16th-Section sources. Its total expenditures were $49.99 million.
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Lowndes district projects revenue of $57.79 million, with expenditures of $55.33 million. Projected state dollars are down to $22.11 million, as opposed to $23.1 million last year. However, projected federal dollars are up to $10.06 million over $5.9 million last year. Still, with increased expenditures, primarily on facilities acquisition and construction projects totaling $2.45 million, up from $307,848 last year, the district”s proposed budget notes a $3.53 million deficit.
- The Columbus Municipal School District, in the 2009-2010 budget year, had $43.66 million in revenue. Its total expenditures were $49.96 million.
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Columbus district projects revenue of $44.12 million and expenditures of $51.88 million, with a significant increase in facilities acquisition and construction — $8.72 million compared to $3.82 million last year. State revenue is projected to decrease from $21.38 million to $19.27 million; federal dollars are expected to increase from $7.99 million to $9.86 million.
- Starkville school officials expect state funding in the $54.4 million budget will be about $1.5 million less than last year after the cuts.
In 2009, Starkville received Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding plus add-ons, which include such things as special, gifted and vocational education, of $18.3 before cuts and $16.8 after cuts. In 2010, MAEP funding is a flat $16.7 million with no add-ons. MAEP is the formula by which the state calculates how much funding a school district needs to be successful.
- The Oktibbeha County School District, in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, had total revenue of $11.64 million and expenditures of $10.79 million. Oktibbeha schools” 2010-2011 budget was still in the works, Friday.
- The West Point School District, in the 2009-2010 budget year, had $31.16 million in revenue. Its total expenditures were $33.3 million.
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the West Point district projects revenue of $32.36 million and expenditures of $31.9 million.
- The Clay County School District, in the 2009-2010 budget year, had $2.89 million in revenue. Its total expenditures were $2.66 million.
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Clay district projects revenue of $2.65 million and expenditures of $2.64 million.
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