Riley promises to retain teachers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

There is a &uot;glimmer of hope&uot; for public school teachers and support personnel facing job losses in Alabama and Butler County, but action must be taken quickly to avoid thousands across the state from receiving pink slips, say education officials. Twenty teachers and support personnel across Butler County are currently facing the loss of their jobs at the end of the 2002-2003 term.

Butler County School Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed and other city and county superintendents throughout the state met with Governor Riley Tuesday.

During the meeting the governor promised his administration was doing &uot;everything humanly possible&uot; to make sure systems can rehire all teachers and support workers (barring any decline in enrollment).

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State school officials said saving these jobs statewide will require at least an additional $140 million.

Riley also made reference in the meeting to a future unveiling of a plan for a &uot;world-class&uot; education system in Alabama—a plan that will almost certainly require a special legislative session.

While specifics about the governor’s plan were not revealed at the meeting, there are indications the money needed to save the jobs would come from sources that do not require vote approval.

&uot;Right now it is a ‘wait and see’ situation, which is hard. I’ll certainly be interested to hear more about this plan…I am definitely more hopeful than I was a couple of weeks ago,&uot; Reed said.

Reed said whatever plan is implemented, time is of the absolute essence.

&uot;We all have a deadline to meet by law—we have to let our teachers know their employment status by the last day of school (May 22 in Butler County) and all decisions to rehire have to made by July 1,&uot; Reed said.

He added, &uot;Please remember, Butler County has always pink-slipped non-tenured teachers at the end of the year anyway.

But if the legislature acts quickly, we will be able to then let these teachers know we are inviting them back to their positions.&uot;

Tom Salter, Communications Manager for the State Department of Education, echoed Reed’s concern.

&uot;By law, all superintendents must notify those losing their positions by the last day of school—and some will end their session as early as May 15,&uot; Salter commented. &uot;If this special legislative session the governor is considering calling doesn’t start until the middle of May, well, we are going to have a real problem.

They need to meet as soon as possible.&uot;

&uot;I know that the governor and Dr. Hubbert [executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association] have been talking daily.

There’s a strong indication some decision will be received in the near future…I certainly hope so,&uot; said Reed.

The superintendent also addressed the controversy that has arisen over the recent decision by the school board to discontinue the JROTC program in the county.

&uot;I want people to understand there was absolutely no anti-ROTC sentiment involved here…we simply have to make cuts somewhere and this was one place we felt we could do it,&uot; explained Reed.

He stressed that cutting the program did not mean JROTC would never again be available to Butler County students.

&uot;The program could certainly be reinstated in the future, though we would have to get on a waiting list,&uot; Reed said.