Cuts ahead for CHCCS

jalexander@newsobserver.comMarch 21, 2014 

  • In other business

    The school board adopted a resolution opposing the loss of tenure, or career status, and the offering of four-year contracts to 25 percent of teachers in exchange for their giving up tenure now. The vote was 6-0. One board member, Annetta Streater was not there. The resolution passed states:

    The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) are finding it difficult to select a method of determining who qualifies among our many outstanding teachers for the four-year contract offer, and

    WHEREAS, the CHCCS School Board values their teachers and believe them to be deserving of adequate and equitable compensation, and

    WHEREAS, the General Assembly failed to thoroughly consult with educators, school boards, and superintendents in developing the legislation creating the 25 percent contracts, and

    WHEREAS, the General Assembly has only guaranteed funds for the first year of the 25 percent contract bonuses, and

    WHEREAS, teachers have received only a 1.2 percent salary increase once out of the past five years, resulting in a greater need by school districts to increase recruitment and retention of teachers, and

    WHEREAS, the Appropriations Act of 2013 cut funding for classroom teachers, teacher assistants, textbooks, instructional materials, and limited English proficiency, while continuing the elimination of funding for mentor pay and professional development.

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education requests that the General Assembly repeal SL 2013-36, SB 402, Sec. 9.6 and allow it to retain its prorated share of the funds allocated for the 25 percent contract to be used in implementation of a locally-developed, effective, long-term compensation plan tied to career paths with input from the education and business community.

    Last week, Durham and Guilford Counties school boards filed a lawsuit against the state over career status and teacher tenure, saying that the contracts are unconstitutional.

— Cuts to programs and staff loom for the Chapel Hill-Carborro City Schools.

Superintendent Tom Forcella is recommending $909,852 in budget cuts, which could affect gifted specialist positions and teacher assistants.

“It’s people at this point,” school board Chairwoman Jamezetta Bedford said. “That’s the sad part. Now it’s real people.”

The school board plans to ask the county for an additional $2.7 million for the 2014-15 school year based on the increased operating costs. Last year’s budget was a little more than $135 million.

“If the county commissioners can’t match that $2.7 million, then we'll have to make additional cuts,” Bedford said. “We want to hold them, but those positions would be up for consideration.”

At Thursday night’s board meeting, one recommendation was to reduce gifted specialists at the elementary and middle school level. Part-time academic specialist teachers at each school would also be cut, for a combined savings of $536,340.

Most board members seemed to support the recommendations. However, there was some concern that this could be an ongoing problem.

“In the future, this will be a new normal for us,” said Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent. “We’re going to be wrestling with budgetary uncertainty in the future as well.”

Parents worried

Some parents of academically gifted children spoke out against cutting the program.

One parent said that academically gifted children are the ones who are at-risk and that making cuts in the program could create behavioral problems in those students.

One parent said those students need to be challenged or they would get bored with school.

With cost increases, and cutbacks at the state level, keeping up with teacher salaries has been difficult. In the past three years, the district has been covering a shortfall by using its fund balance, an account used to manage cash flow throughout the year and pay for unforeseen expenses. However, that money will no longer be available after this school year.

There is growing concern that the district may not be able to retain quality teachers and adequately recruit teachers from out-of-state.

“The pressure on us is definitely from the state,” LoFrese said. “We definitely do not want things to take steps backwards. But we're going to the do the very best we can with the funding and resources that are provided to us to support children and provide them with a great education”

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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