Fayette schools nearing job cuts target

Through attrition and resignations, the Fayette County School System has already trimmed 284 jobs from its target of 309 positions to be cut.

The Board of Education recently agreed with the recommendation of interim Superintendent Dan Colwell that 309 positions be eliminated as part of a $15 million budget cut needed to balance the 2013-2014 budget that begins in July.

Though the numbers are still changing, school system administrators Friday said positions for a number of the 309 employees have been found due to the resignation or retirement of 284 employees since August.

Colwell and Assistant Superintendent of Business and Personnel Management Tom Gray on May 10 said school system planning staff have been focusing on the certified employees such as teachers and counselors since certified employees have to be notified by mid-May if their contracts are not being renewed. Gray will soon begin work in finding as many positions as possible for classified staff such as parapros.

Of the 146 employees who retired, there were 85 certified employees and 61 classified employees. The school system also had 138 employees resigning, of which 49 were certified staff and 89 were classified.

Colwell said there are currently 24 teachers with positions not yet available for next year.

“We feel pretty good about being able to place the 24 teachers. And there’s a good chance that the number needing placement will get smaller,” Colwell said, noting the customary reality that some school system employees tender their resignations as the school year comes to an end.

Colwell said there are also nine counselors for whom a position is attempting to be found.

“It’s looking good right now. The numbers (of people needing positions) is coming down through attrition and we still want to find positions for these 33 people,” Colwell said, adding that those employees unable to be placed will be able to take advantage of an upcoming job fair arranged by local sources and sponsored by the Ga. Department of Labor.

And though they stressed that the situation is still fluid with the coming end of the school year, Gray and Colwell said all attempts are being made to place as many employees as possible in appropriate positions so that the fewest number of employees will actually lose their jobs.

Colwell emphasized that every employee needing a position cannot necessarily plug into an identical open position since those positions are not always available. Colwell cited the example of a physics teacher whose position must be filled by another physics teacher.

Colwell said the focus on certified staff is nearly complete. The next focus will be on classified employees, particularly parapros.

A portion of the classified positions to be eliminated included approximately 60 first-grade parapros whose salaries are funded by local tax dollars. To accomplish the task, all kindergarten and first-grade parapros were told they would be technically dismissed so that school principals could re-hire the parapros for kindergarten classes they deemed to be the best fit for the school, Colwell said.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to re-hire all of them back because we’re eliminating the entire program. These are valuable people who have made contributions over the years, but we can’t afford it anymore,” Colwell said.

The school board next month will adopt a budget that will trim approximately $15 million off the current expense budget while approving additional reductions needed to begin to building a financial reserve.