Are teaching positions on the chopping block?

Are teaching positions on the chopping block?

By Nicole Daughhetee

Courier Staff

COUNTY — Amid the large group of local citizens who signed up to speak at the March 25 School District of Pickens County board of trustees meeting — most against the new non-sectarian prayer policy — one resident expressed concern about a possible item in the fiscal year 2013-14 budget that would eliminate 20 teaching positions.

“It has come to my attention that the district is considering eliminating up to 20 teacher positions in an effort to raise the average teacher pay on paper,” Christy Galloway said. “It concerns me that this board is willing to cause the already overcrowded classrooms to become moreso and to put further burden on our teachers, who are already among the lower paid of the state.

“My understanding is that this move is not coming from any budget cuts. My hope is if this isn’t under consideration that it will be brought to the public’s attention before being implemented.”

But according to school district spokesman John Eby, while some teaching contracts are not being renewed for the next academic year, the 20 eliminated positions figure is not anywhere near accurate.

“As of this moment, the 21.5 to 1 student teacher ratio is still being maintained by the district,” said Eby. “No one can guarantee this won’t change, because the budget has not been approved yet, but at present the district is not cutting 20 teachers.”

Eby explained that there are some teaching contracts held by induction teachers, or those new teachers who sign on with the SDPC knowing they are not guaranteed a contract renewal, that will not be extended for the 2013-14 school year.

“There are six induction teachers at this point who will not have new contracts because the money isn’t in the budget,” said Eby. “They are aware of this and knew that their contracts were not guaranteed.”

Pickens Middle School will have seven less teaching positions next year as well. Again, Eby stressed that the SDPC is not firing teachers.

“There will be seven fewer teaching positions at PMS because there are fewer students enrolled in the school,” he said.

Board trustee Alex Saitta, in an email written in response to the March 25 SDPC meeting, shared concerns similar to those Galloway presented.

“The administration is prepared to recommend to the board to raise the student-teacher ratio from 21.5 to 1, to 22.5 to 1. This will result in the elimination of about 23 classroom teaching positions,” said Saitta. “This will raise class sizes, and it is not the way to balance the $900,000 budget deficit. I oppose this.

“Under their plan, each student will receive less individual time. Most of our poorest-performing students are coming from homes where they don’t get individual education time at home. They need more time in our classrooms, not less. Eliminating classroom teachers would be the last thing I would cut, not the first.”

The SDPC board of trustees is expected to meet for a 2013-14 general fund budget workshop on Monday.