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Attrition, firings, layoffs could save Gainesville schools $2.8 million
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Despite drastic reductions in revenue this year, the Gainesville school board is hopeful it will pay off $1.8 million of its estimated $5.8 million deficit this summer.

The board fired five teachers and could lay off as many as 12 more to pay for it.

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said five teachers were notified last week they were fired due to poor performance. Dyer said Monday an additional 12 tenured teachers could find out by March 25 if they will be offered a contract for the 2009-10 school year.

Dyer said the 17 teacher cuts and about 34 additional positions made vacant this year through attrition will reduce personnel costs. Next school year, 7.5 of those teaching positions and a part-time central office administrative position will not be replaced. Dyer said the teacher cuts, attrition and vacant positions will save the system about $2.8 million.

Dyer said central office staff or school principals will tell the 12 teachers who may not be offered contracts for next year.

Teachers in the Gainesville system for at least four years or those in the Gainesville system for two years who had been with another Georgia school district for at least four years prior are considered tenured and covered by the Fair Dismissal Act. Whether fired or laid off, tenured teachers must be let go using a "reduction in force" policy that allows them a hearing in which the system must explain the reasons for the teacher’s dismissal.

Elfreda Lakey, assistant superintendent of operations, policies and human resources for Gainesville schools, said the system had 27 teachers and classified employees resign this year, slightly fewer than last year.

Dyer said the school board has long known it might have to cut teachers this school year.

"The day we announced we had a deficit we knew that," she said.

With the Gainesville system’s enrollment growing only 3 percent this year, as opposed to its typical 20 percent to 25 percent, Dyer said the need to cut teachers became more apparent. As local and state revenues continue to lag, she said the position cuts are necessary for the board to help pay off the system’s deficit.

"We hope and think (this) is what we need, unless we have much further cuts from the state," Dyer said. "... We think this will be the last of the reductions we have to do."

She said as more state and federal guidelines for federal stimulus funding expenditures emerge in the next seven to 10 days, the school system will gain a clearer picture of how many of the 12 pending teacher cuts must be made. The system plans to use some of its roughly $2 million in federal stimulus funds to finance teacher positions that benefit economically disadvantaged and special needs students.

"We are doing this in tiers because we are being very careful not to reduce more than we have to," Dyer said.

She said if the system needs to eliminate more positions to save money, it would then cut 34 part-time teachers and some additional classified employees, such as bus drivers, secretaries and custodians. Dyer said if the system were to enact those cuts, they would likely do so in May and June when state and local revenue figures are updated.

Janet Allison, finance director for Gainesville schools, said the position cuts and the state’s restoration of Gainesville’s $600,000 charter school system grant puts Gainesville schools in a better position to reduce its deficit.

"We’re looking good," she said.

Allison said the charter school system grant award has a significant impact on the system’s finances. And as of Feb. 28, the Gainesville system had received about $23 million, or 91.7 percent, of the more than $25.1 million in local tax revenue for which it had budgeted.

Also, Dyer informed the school board Monday the Gainesville Police Department will not be able to provide crossing guards for schools next year.