Crenshaw County Schools to cut 39 employee positions

Published 2:43 pm Friday, May 20, 2011

The Crenshaw County Board of Education voted at Thursday night’s meeting to cut 20 teaching positions and 19 support positions from the school system before next school year.
“We’ve cut everything that we can, and there’s just no other money out there,” Superintendent Randy Wilkes told the board and a packed meeting room. “It’s not something that we want to do, but it’s something we have to do.”
One of the main causes leading up to this cut is the loss of federal stimulus funds.
Crenshaw County schools currently use a combined $1.148 million from America Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds and Jobs Bill funds.
That money will end on Sept. 30, 2011, and Wilkes said that no prior preparations were made to account for this known decrease in revenue.
“We kept on with the people we had, knowing that it would come to this,” he said.
The cutting of federal funds will cost the system six teaching units and “numerous” support personnel.
Another area affecting the number of teaching units is enrollment.
In 2007, the school system had an average daily attendance of 2,495.
That number decreased to 2,292 in 2010, but the overall number of employees has remained steady since 2006.
Some eight teaching units will be lost due to a decrease in enrollment of 118 students from the previous fiscal year, and an increase in classroom divisors by the state legislature will cost an additional three teaching units.
The uncertainty of Luverne School’s Adequate Yearly Progress status (AYP) is also a factor.
The school didn’t make AYP last year, and another failure to make AYP this year would result in sanctions.
However, the scores won’t be released until August, and action must be taken before the end of the current school year.
Wilkes said that the school system has no choice but to assume the worst case scenario that Luverne will enter School Improvement and cut three teaching units.
For support personnel, fewer students are eating in the school lunchroom because of decreased enrollment and an undetermined number of lunchroom workers will be released.
Wilkes also noted that Crenshaw County has one of the highest costs per-student, per-day for transportation in the state at $7.20.
With the state legislature’s cut of transportation budgets, that will result in the loss of seven bus driver positions.
Wilkes said later that the school system has wiped the board clean in regards to bus routes and transportation.
“We had some redundancy and overlapping of bus routes,” he said, which led to a complete overhaul of the school’s transportation system.
Wilkes also said that arriving at the decision to cut employees was tough.
“There’s not a single one of those employees that didn’t do a good job for us,” Wilkes said. “We’re devastated.”
The measure passed unanimously.
Of the employees affected, nearly all were non-tenured.
Wilkes said there will be some shuffling around of personnel, but those should be limited to within each school and shouldn’t require intra-district transfers.
Despite the drastic cut, Wilkes said the school systems is looking to keep improving.
“We’re not going to sit back and let the children suffer,” he said. “We will forge ahead.”
Class size is always a concern when reducing the number of employees.
However, Wilkes said the school system kept that in mind.
“Class sizes may go up, but I don’t think we’ll see 35-40 kids in a classroom,” he said. “I think 28-30 is a possibility, but not much more than that.”

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