Sullivan BOE set to consider teacher layoffs

Rick Wagner • May 10, 2013 at 2:23 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school leaders Saturday will begin wrangling with potential teacher layoffs — maybe 19 teachers — and cutting instructional assistants from full-time to part-time status.

The Board of Education is set to address the expenditure side of the 2013-14 budget at a work session from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 212 of the health and education building off the Blountville Bypass.

The last work session focused on revenues, which are projected to be down about $4 million, but this session is focused on expenditures.

As a lead-in to the work session, the board voted 5-1 with one absent to recommend a pupil-teacher funding ratio of 17.5:1 at the system’s four high schools.

Based on projected 2013-14 enrollments and current teacher levels, that would result in cutting 4.06 teachers from Sullivan Central, 5.01 from Sullivan East, 6.5 from Sullivan North and 2.51 from Sullivan South. Rounding off those numbers to four, five, seven and three would result in the loss of 19 teaching positions.

Director of Schools Jubal Yennie has said the move is to equalize funding and resources across the four high schools, not an effort to balance the budget on the backs of the high schools.

A staffing comparisons sheet the BOE reviewed before voting is here, this is for online use available in the electronic version of this article at www.timesnews.net. On the staffing comparisons chart, the total teaching staff highlighted in blue is subtracted from the 17.5:1 ratio highlighted in green to get the number of teaching positions cut.

Another cost-savings and equalization issue Yennie has talked about is the potential moving of most instructional assistants from full-time to part-time status.

However, 18-year-plus instructional assistant Vickie King, a kindergarten assistant at Miller Perry Elementary, Monday night urged the BOE not to make a proposed wholesale switch of most aides from full-time to part-time status, including a pay cut and loss of most benefits.

King said she believed it was not right “to ask the people who are paid the least to give up the most.”

As a Class B employee, with A being the lowest paid, she said she has maxed out at about $15,000 a year plus retirement and health insurance, but that if made part-time she would go to about $10,000 a year without those two benefits. She said she doesn’t want to retire.

“Every minute of every day is spent working with students,” King said of instructional assistants, while other positions spend little or no time with students.

“I know that the board faces some tough budget decisions,” King said. But if the changes must occur, she suggested they be done gradually, through attrition, rather than all at once in the 2013-14 budget.

Currently a “response to intervention” instructional assistant for Miller Perry kindergarten students, King has spent more than 16 years at Miller Perry in various instructional assistant positions and two years at the now-closed Cedar Grove Elementary.

The work sessions are open to the public, and board Chairman Dan Wells invited county commissioners to attend the meeting.

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