A proposal to cut several positions within the Columbus Municipal School District hit a stumbling block Monday night, buying some needed time for those whose jobs are on the chopping block. But the delay is only temporary.
At its first meeting since announcing a plan to eliminate 59 jobs from its roster, the Columbus Municipal School District board of trustees voted to table the measure as more names were added to the list.
During a seemingly routine discussion about requests from the district’s personnel office, board member Currie Fisher said she was uncomfortable with additional names making the endangered-jobs list.
“I would like to discuss this matter further,” Fisher said. “This seems to be different than what we discussed last week. I would like to know why this list is longer?”
Dr. Myra Gillis, director of personnel for the district, said further research had been conducted concerning the cuts and some employees may have been initially overlooked.
“We went back and did this on a man-by-man basis, we found some people that have been here in multiple capacities but were not certified. We finished compiling the list on Friday. We had different scenarios for each person,” she said.
Although the number of new additions was not made known at the board meeting, it was originally announced that 54 teachers, three coaches, an administrator and a counselor would lose their jobs in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. The announcement, made at a budgetary press conference last week, will save the district $2.1 million as part of a larger $3.4 million in overall cuts.
“If we pass this with the new additions to the list, we will not be allowing the teachers a time to speak,” Fisher said.
Gillis assured the board that everyone facing termination has had ample time to question the validity of the budget cuts.
The controversial announcement of the proposed budget cuts was met with a silent protest by a group of teachers, students and parents. The protesters stood during the board meeting, holding signs with slogans such as “Save Our A.P.” Their presence did not go unrecognized by board members.
“I look around this room, and I see a lot of doubt on the faces of the people here,” board member Bruce Hanson said. “I suggest we table this and look at it some more. Are these issues time sensitive?”
Board Attorney David Dunn said the personnel requests contained more than the request to eliminate more than 60 positions in the district.
“There are several requests requiring a vote by the board, not just this,” he said.
Dunn’s comments visibly angered Hanson.
“Sir, that is not what I asked,” Hanson exclaimed. “I asked if these issues are time sensitive. I asked (Interim Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell), not you.”
After passing a motion to table the personnel requests, Board President Dr. Glenn Lautzenhiser requested Liddell further examine the new additions to the list and report back to the board. The board will take up the measure in a yet-to-be announced special meeting.
For some of the protesters, the move was seen as a small victory.
“I think the board’s action was a direct result of our protest,” Courtney Stanback, a Spanish teacher at Columbus High School, said. “We just want to discuss our options. The board thinks we are being emotional. We just need to sit down and talk.
“Some of us would even be willing to accept pay cuts to help keep some of our teachers. We just want a discussion. If this passes, it is going to be detrimental to the district. I’m already seeing a drop in morale among the teachers and students.”
Columbus High School sophomore Corey Persons echoed Stanback’s sentiments.
“This is tragic,” Persons said. “These people need their jobs. Some of us just got to high school and we want the opportunity to learn and grow.”