The 10 employees losing their jobs were informed Tuesday that they were being let go.
A total of 28 positions in all were eliminated to help close a predicted $2.4 million budget shortfall for the coming school year. However, layoffs were mitigated by moving employees around — many whose positions were cut could move into other open jobs left vacant due to retirement and attrition.
A big question was what would happen to the teachers and staff at soon-to-close Central Elementary School, which is being consolidated to save money on overhead. The elementary schools slated to absorb Central’s student body of 230 students will have to add some positions to accommodate the larger student bodies there, but not enough to give everyone from Central a job, leaving many Central staff in limbo whether they would have jobs come next year.
School officials made a major announcement last week that proved a rare bright spot in the budget shortfall begetting layoffs.
“Every single employee at Central Elementary School has been placed elsewhere,” Jason Heinz, human resources director for the school system, reported at a school board work session last week.
Across the room, School Board Member Larry Henson did a fist pump upon hearing the news.
Not only the teachers, but the school secretary, principal, custodians and bus drivers from Central Elementary will be offered similar positions at another school in the county.
“Every single Central Elementary employee from after school to teachers to custodians to PE — they all got positions elsewhere?” School Board Member Bobby Rogers affirmed.
“Even after-school care got taken care of,” Superintendent Anne Garrett said.
“That is awesome,” Henson said.
As for the 10 school system employees who will lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts, figuring out what positions to cut was an elaborate process. Each principal in the school system was asked to come up a list of positions they could sacrifice. Those lists were then analyzed and winnowed down.
After arriving at a master list for the entire school system, a great shuffling ensued to save as many jobs as possible by moving employees who would otherwise be cut into other positions coming open due to retirements or attrition.
“I’ve spent all week on the phone with principals saying ‘I see you have a position open. We have someone over here who will need a job. Can you take them?,’” Heinz said. “We were then able to say ‘Your new job is over here, congratulations.’”
It wasn’t possible in every case, however.
“With K-5 teachers, you can move them among grade levels with a lot more flexibility,” Heinz said.
But in middle and high school, teachers are often more specialized in particular subjects.
“If you need to lose a science position and an English teacher retires, it doesn’t help you,” Heinz said.
In the end, only 10 employees will be laid off out of the total 28 positions being eliminated.
“I am glad we could get it down that low, but I hate that it is that high,” School Board Chairman Chuck Francis said.
Positions eliminated in the budget cuts include 21 teachers, two assistant principals, one library assistant, two clerical positions and the equivalent of two full-time counselors.
Charter school count
While Haywood County Schools are cutting jobs, the new start-up charter school Shining Rock Classical Academy has added jobs. Competition from Shining Rock has pulled both students and money away from the traditional school system. At the end of the day, the reallocation of money and students to the charter school came down to jobs being lost at one but gained at the other.
Shining Rock has the equivalent of 27 full-time employees this school year— which is almost exactly the number of positions now being cut by Haywood County Schools.
But teachers being laid off by Haywood County Schools shouldn’t get their hopes up that they can skip across town and become teachers at Shining Rock.
Shining Rock is projecting an enrollment leap from 225 students this year to 350 next school year. But with 24 teachers already on its rolls, Shining Rock plans to add only three additional teachers going into next year— two to accommodate the addition of seventh grade and one additional teacher assistant, according to a tally provided by the school director Ben Butler.
The total number of 24 teachers at Shining Rock this year includes assistants, electives and services for children with disabilities.
The school had undersized classrooms operating below capacity in several grades this year. If projected enrollment growth comes to fruition next year, the school will merely be filling up its existing classes — thus why the enrollment growth from 225 to 350 doesn’t correlate with the hiring of more teachers, with the addition of seventh grade being the exception.
The funding loss due to charter school competition would top $3 million next school year if Shining Rock hits its enrollment target.
School board reminds public, and themselves, it’s not all gloom and doom
Despite the stark budget reality of laying off teachers, the Haywood County School board set aside time at its monthly meeting this week to highlight a litany of academic accomplishments from students.
More than 200 students and parents from across the county packed into the school board room, spilled down the hallways and into overflow rooms. It’s a standing tradition at school board meetings to applaud students who have done good things — from getting into Governor’s School, making All-State Band or winning a special scholarship. Often entire sports teams that have had a standout season are paraded into a school board meeting for handshakes, certificates and photo ops.
But this month, with the year drawing to a close, the list of accolades was a doozy, lasting nearly two hours and delaying the start of the regular school board meeting until 9 p.m.
“We are here tonight to recognize a whole slew of elementary students who have done great work over the year,” said Ron Moss, elementary curriculum advisor for Haywood County Schools, kicking off the evening’s recognitions.
Moss honored Hazelwood Elementary School’s Battle of the Books team for bringing home top honors in the literary quiz bowl competition at the regional level, and four elementary schools whose Science Olympiad teams swept the regional Science Olympiad competition, bringing home first, second, third and fourth places.
Other accomplishments recognized included the Bethel Middle School sportsman club, middle school students with high ACT scores, academically gifted students accepted into the Duke TIP program, Pisgah High School ROTC, and more.
“What a great night for Haywood County to celebrate all the accomplishments we’ve had,” said Chuck Francis, Haywood School Board Chairman.
— By Becky Johnson, staff writer