WILLIAMSON – Mingo County Schools may be required to cut professional employment in the school system by 10 percent for the 2016 – 2017 school term because of the lack of state funding due to declining enrollment in area schools.
The lack of funding could result in the loss of 20 teaching positions and up to 45 service personnel throughout the county.
The issue was addressed at a Mingo County Board of Education (BOE) meeting earlier in the month by Dr. Bobbera, Mingo County Superintendent of Schools and Dr. Richard Duncan, Human Resources Director for Mingo County Schools.
On Oct.22, Duncan said, “Right now, we are working on some preliminary data that puts our state aid overages at about 20 professional personnel and 45 service personnel. This is not official but gives us a starting point for the discussion. We are also unsure at this point how severe the budget cuts will hit state aid for the schools, so it is possible that we could see less funding than even the formula says we are supposed to get.”
“The outlook then is that we have over 60 positions that we need to find funding for. That’s about 10 percent of our total workforce, so it’s a staggering number of positions to try and fund out of local funds,” Duncan continued.
Currently, the BOE is looking at ways to move employment around to prevent unnecessary layoffs. “All that said, we are looking beyond personnel reductions to try and balance the budget, but with personnel costs at 85 percent or so of that budget, there just isn’t much else out there left to save jobs. We are hopeful, though, that we will be able to re position rather than cut people, even if we have to cut positions. Last school year, we cut about a dozen teaching and administrative positions without laying off a single person. Everyone had a place to work in August, even if it is where they worked in May. We may not be able to do that in every case this time around, but that is the goal,” Duncan explained.
Brandon Tinney, The American Federation of Teacher’s Representative for Mingo and surrounding areas, addressed the job cuts at Tuesday’s BOE meeting.
Tinney said, “One of the hardest jobs in education is sitting on a local school board when money is tight and cuts have to be made. Personnel season for a BOE is tough and I respect the fact that you have taken on this role. The proposed cuts discussed at the last board meeting were three elementary teachers, two to four librarians, four related arts teachers, five high school core teachers, and two counselors and an unknown about of service personnel. That is almost 20 teachers being cut. However, I don’t see any administration or board office cuts. Only teachers. It’s wrong to only cut those who work directly with students on a daily basis.”
“If all of Mingo County had less money and fewer students then I don’t understand why teachers and service personnel are the only proposed cuts. I hope no positions are cut and no one loses their job but should all of Mingo County bear the burden of a declining enrollment? When you have to make these difficult decisions I hope that you keep this in mind,” Tinney continued.
Bill Duty, former BOE member, spoke at Tuesday’s BOE meeting about the proposed job cuts. “I pray with you and for you. Do not compromise the fact that our children are the most important part of our system,” Duty said.
David Farley, President of the BOE, also commented on the proposed job cuts. “None of this is set in stone. It was just a workshop. No decision has been made on anything,” Farley said.
Duncan explained that transfers and job cuts will be announced before the end of the 2015-2016 school term. “Fortunately, the law gives us a set of deadlines for making personnel decisions that help to protect our folks from getting a late surprise and having to spend the summer looking for a new job. By March 1, anyone for whom we do not have a job in 2016-2017 must be notified. This includes the BOE voting to make this decision and time for the individual to request a hearing before the board votes to state the case as to why this shouldn’t happen,” Duncan said.
“By April 2015, anyone who is going to be transferred in 2016, 2017 must be notified again only after the board has voted to do so and there has been time for a hearing before the vote. After these dates, we cannot force anyone to transfer, nor can we cut anyone’s position. We can still add new positions or eliminate empty positions at any time of the year. This means that sometimes we have to go into these deadlines with as many reductions as we think will be necessary, only to find our later in the spring or summer that more students are enrolling, more funding has arrived, etc. It doesn’t help that the Legislature continues to meet in March, and often waits until the end of their session to make changes that affect schools. They could decide to adopt a state budget that cuts public school funding even deeper than the Governor has already proposed, likely leaving numerous counties with significant budget deficits,” Duncan continued.
Duncan explained that by starting the dialogue now about the possibility of job cuts, it enables those employed by the school to start preparing for the possibility. “In the end, we just want everyone to know what might happen so that they can be prepared. The job market in our area is challenging. That is why we are out in the public now talking about what reductions might occur so that we are all better prepared when the board is forced to act.”
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)