By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Proposed budget cuts were a focal point of the Edgecombe County Board of Education’s Monday evening meeting.
“These are difficult recommendations, but we tried to save as many teachers’ positions as we can while still trying to maintain the same instructional programs, while making fiscally sound decisions,” Superintendent John Farrelly told the board, as he gave an overview of the proposed budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
“There’s no way that we can avoid cutting teaching positions in the district,” Farrelly went on to say. “We’re also recommending several teacher assistant cuts.”
The proposed budget calls for the elimination of 10 classroom teacher positions and 16 teacher assistant positions. Farrelly said the budget committee ensured that every kindergarten class would have a teacher assistant next year.
Of the teacher position cuts, 5.75 of them come from W.A. Pattillo School due to a decrease in enrollment. The main reason that Farrelly cited for the cuts is the district’s loss of 318 students this year with the opening of the charter school, North East Carolina Prep School.
“Going into this school year, the charter school impact was significant, to the tune of about $855,000,” Farrelly said. “Even though we absorbed it (the reduction from the fund balance) this year, we can’t do that moving forward.”
Next year’s impact will be even greater as the charter school adds classes and another grade
“We had to look forward at the charter school reduction as they continue to grow,” said Laurie Leary, director of fiscal services/ finance officer for the district. She said the opening of the charter school created a loss of five classroom teacher positions and three and a half teacher assistant positions in the district.
The budget also calls for the cuts of four Common Core coaching (teaching) positions. Common Core is the math and language arts curriculum that was implemented in the district this year, thus the coaching positions are new.
The district focused on “positions” rather than the people in the positions when determining what cuts to recommend, Farrelly said. If a Common Core coach, for instance, is very effective in his/ her position, that person could be eligible for another position in the district, Farrelly said.
The budget message ended with a conversation about raising student achievement, and subsequently regaining the students that left the district this year – a total of 397.
“The way that we will get those students back will be to do a better job…all of us,” Board Chair Ann Kent said.
“Competition can be healthy and we’re approaching it that it’s a good thing,” Farrelly stated, regarding the opening of the charter school. “We’re going to do the job. We’re going to get student achievement going in the right direction…Every single day we’ll get a little bit better. We’re all going to be part of the solution of student achievement in the Edgecombe County Public Schools going up, and that’s our mission.”
“We didn’t get here overnight and we will not get out overnight,” said Kent. “But I think we are well on the way (to raising student achievement), with good leadership,” said Kent.
The budget will come back to the board for a vote at its regularly scheduled meeting in April, and Kent asked the district to review the board’s budget before the meeting.
Other recommended budget cuts include the elimination of the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program at SouthWest and Edgecombe Early College High Schools, Kagan training, and a central office position. Farrelly said the school principals agreed that they could maintain the strategies of AVID and Kagan without funding for the programs. Kagan structures are research-based instructional strategies that have a record of improving academic achievement and social outcomes.
In action items at Monday’s meeting, the board approved:
A resolution in support of the restoration of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program.
A resolution in opposition to school property transfer from local school boards to county commissioners.
Revised policies on attendance, evaluation of student progress, and grants and funding for special projects.
Revised school calendars for early release for testing. The early release days for elementary and middle schools are May 20, and May 21. The high schools will release early the week of June 3 through June 7, and the Early College will have early release on May 17, and May 20 through May 22. Teachers will use the afternoons of the early release days in district-wide test scoring sessions.