It's going to get worse before it gets better. So McDuffie County School officials are thinking pro-active.
After spending time at the state capitol recently and talking with legislators, McDuffie County Schools Superintendent Jim LeBrun and several school board members learned to expect more cuts in revenue from the state.
As a result, members of the school board voted at their regular meeting last Thursday to enact a Reduction in Force status in accordance with a policy that has been on the books since 2006.
"When I met with legislators last week, they were telling us that more cuts were on the way, but they didn't know how much more," Mr. LeBrun said. "So, right now, we're reducing expenditures anticipating additional cuts from Atlanta." Mr. LeBrun's RIF plan was implemented Friday, and included notifying 34 non-tenured teachers that the school system does not have a contract for them at the present time.
"We didn't tell them that they are definitely laid off. We are telling them that as of today, right now, we don't have a contract for them. That may change, and those numbers may go down as time goes on," Mr. LeBrun said.
Mr. LeBrun added that 15 certified employees have turned in a notice of retirement as of Monday, which may or may not affect the 34 who are not getting a contract.
"We can't exactly say that those 15 will reduce the 34, but we do have those positions to still work with," he said, adding that some of the influencing factors would be program needs, number and types of students, additional employees retiring and revenue from the state.
Not quite all of the 34 have been notified, because the needs may change based on those factors, Mr. LeBrun said.
Legally, the school system has until May 15 to present contracts. Mr. LeBrun said he hopes notifying the employees early will increase their chances of finding other work elsewhere before other systems in the state start making cuts.
"It's not a pleasant place to be, but as a teacher, I think I'd need to know as soon as possible," McDuffie Board of Education Chairwoman Georgia Hobbs said during discussion at the meeting.
The reduction was based on a tier, with under-performing teachers making up the first level, and non-tenured teachers being the next level, Mr. LeBrun said.
"The numbers will change over time," Mr. LeBrun reiterated. "And we certainly hope the numbers will decrease instead of increase, but that's depending on what happens in Atlanta."
The superintendent said he hopes to get tenured teacher's contracts out in April, but that depends on if he receives the state allotment sheet as planned.
The local school system's budget is being built right now, based on the current reductions, and anticipating more reductions. If the next round of cuts from the state is more than 3 percent, things could change.