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BOE approves sad but necessary#039; job cuts

Come the 2003-2004 school year in the Butler County School System, there will be fewer electives available to students, and fewer teachers to instruct the children.

That is the &uot;sad but necessary&uot; truth, according to Dr. Mike Reed, county school superintendent.

&uot;This is our fourth year of cuts, and eventually you run out of anything but personnel to cut,&uot; he said.

&uot;There will definitely be less teachers in our classrooms next year…personnel cuts in support staff and teachers are something we’re facing district-wide.

This is not hype, believe me. The fact is, the school system is bleeding,&uot; Reed stated.

According the Tom Salter, communications manager for the Alabama State Department of Education, school systems in the state should expect a 7 percent reduction in funding depending on budgets.

&uot;[This means] a number of state-funded teacher units will be reduced," he said.

"Some locally funded systems can pick up the difference, but many of them cannot.

We don’t like to see them [teachers] go, but you have to make some hard choices.

If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money.&uot;

Butler County Board of Education member Joanne Peak’s words echo those of Salter.

&uot;We regret what we have to do in making these personnel cuts—it’s the hardest thing we have to do in our position," she said. "But when the money’s not there and you know it won’t be there, you have to look at where cuts can be made that won’t affect academics,&uot; she said.

Greenville High School Principal, Dr. Kathy Murphy, feels pain over the bleak situation as both an administrator and parent.

&uot;Professionally, I hate to see this happen to our schools, and personally, I am very concerned about the possible repercussions for my own child who is in this system,&uot; she said.

&uot;We (the administration and the board) feel very saddened about these decisions we had to make.

I deeply regret these positions and programs will no longer be available. I am certainly concerned about the impact this will have on our children’s education.

The fact is, times are tough economically and that does negatively impact the school system,&uot; Murphy added.

The economic malaise that has struck the state’s economy overall can be blamed for the Alabama public school system’s dire situation.

&uot;Most of the [educational] funding comes from sales tax and income tax, so when the economy is in the tank, people don’t buy as much. Fewer raises are given so they don’t pay as much income tax…they don’t buy as much so their sales tax is less,&uot; noted Salter.

He added, &uot;The legislature hasn’t passed a budget so it may wind up being higher or lower based on the budget, but school systems can’t wait until then because they need to tell the teachers whether they’ll have jobs or not.&uot;

According to Reed, this translates into ‘pink slips’ going out to all non-tenured teachers in the district at the end of the current school year. Some 20 positions will likely be cut district-wide; 2,000-3,000 teachers will lose their positions across the state.

In an effort to keep academics programs intact, the local school board is looking into cuts in elective programs in the county.

&uot;We already made the decision to discontinue our Junior ROTC program locally…it was a very hard decision to make, but we felt we had to make it,&uot; Reed explained.

&uot;When you look at the number of students currently involved in [Jr. ROTC] and the amount of funds channeled into the program, these seemed to be a good place to start [with cuts].

ROTC is an elective, and it’s the elective programs we are looking at first, as far as cuts go,&uot; explained board member Peak.

The broader outlook for the future of educational funding is Alabama is somewhat hazy.

According to Salter, proration is still expected for this year, &uot;but we might use the rainy day fund for it.&uot;

[The voters passed a referendum this past year allowing a &uot;rainy day&uot; fund to be established]

&uot;Next year it’s unlikely proration will be declared because they are telling us up front about the cuts, plus, there will be no more rainy day fund…that’s why the cuts are happening now,&uot; he said.

Locally, Reed and the board members hope to make the best of an undeniably bad situation.

&uot;Everyone is calling for quality schools and I believe we have delivered…certainly, standards have improved.

We were definitely on our way up—then this situation happened," Reed said.

&uot;We will continue to do our best and strive to improve.

I have faith in my teachers and administrators and we’ll all keep on keeping on,&uot; he said.

Peak stated, &uot;I believe we are, and will continue to be, academically sound.

There will undoubtedly be larger class loads for some teachers; we will lose some electives. We can always hope Governor Riley will come up with the ‘fix’ he has promised to find for us in the area of funding for education…in the meantime, we have to be proud of the strides we have made,&uot; she said, adding,

&uot;We are all thrilled with our recent testing results.

We want to keep those high standards going in this county, in spite of this very unfortunate situation.&uot;

&uot;It’s hard to put a positive spin on this subject, but we have a lot of good people in place and we all have to simply do the best we can,&uot; noted Reed.

Murphy wants to stress to local citizens this was no easy decision for those serving in administration or on the board.

&uot;I don’t want anyone to think we don’t feel for those who are losing their jobs. We are concerned about all those facing job cuts.

Without a doubt, personal lives are going to be disrupted," she said.

"You’re talking about the loss of twenty people’s livelihoods and that's hard. But when ‘the rubber meets the road’, you have to make some very hard choices, unfortunately. I do promise we will do everything in our power to continue to maintain high standards academically in our school and to serve our children in the best possible way under this difficult circumstances."