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Jackson County school system plans cuts to jobs, night sessions
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JEFFERSON — The Jackson County Board of Education approved a plan Wednesday morning to save more than $3 million by reducing its work force, implementing a furlough plan and eliminating the regional evening school program.

The reduction plan affects 12 certified positions in the school system. An additional 26 classified positions will be eliminated systemwide.

Personnel losses include the removal of graduation coaches at all middle schools, the assistant superintendent for human resources and several teaching positions. The high school graduation test prep program with two corresponding positions also will be eliminated.

"It’s been a struggle, and we’ve attempted to try to do it (make cuts) across the board," Chairwoman Kathy Wilbanks said.

"We’ve looked at elementary schools. We’ve looked at middle schools. We’ve looked at high schools as well as the central office and administration. It’s been difficult on everybody, but we really believe it’s going to allow us to maintain our high standards of instruction and academic achievement."

In addition to the 38 jobs cut by the reduction in force plan, the district will lose 42 more positions that will not continue to be funded by the state. Others left vacant through resignations and retirements will remain unfilled.

Those losses, which the board discussed last week, amount to 19 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals and three other staff members from across the system. The removal of those salaries from the budget will provide a savings of $1.88 million, about a third of which will come from 11 elementary school teacher positions.

The board met to discuss the cuts Wednesday at the Gordon Street Center in Jefferson, home to the regional evening school and other programs that help students make up class credit or get back into school after dropping out. Closing the evening program will save an estimated $374,108.

"It is with sadness that we end this service to nontraditional students who have benefited from this educational experience," Superintendent Shannon Adams said.

"Difficult economic times call for difficult decisions. But every effort will be made to meet the educational needs of students who can qualify for existing programs. We will also attempt to assist students in locating online resources for the completion of their degree requirements."

The day programs and other services offered at the Gordon Street Center will remain next year.

Also included in the $3 million cost reduction measures are salaries for some positions that will not continue to be funded by the state. Still others left vacant through resignations and retirements will remain unfilled.

Adams said the board hopes to save closer to a total of $4 million through cuts unrelated to personnel, including limiting use of system vehicles, restricting travel and reducing lawn maintenance expenses.

Certified employees with 12-month contracts and those employed on a 49 percent basis during the year also will see changes in the 2009-10 school year.

The year-round employees will have five furlough days spread throughout the year, and the 49 percent employed staff will get 2« furlough days. Savings from the furloughs total $110,909.

The system will adjust the plan should the state require mandated furloughs, Adams added, and will implement the plan on a year-by-year basis in hopes that the economy will strengthen.

The personnel cuts in once-booming Jackson County are emblematic of funding issues facing school districts across the state. However, other factors influenced the availability of funds in Jackson County and the board’s decision.

Both state and local revenues declined during the past few years as student enrollment, transportation costs and instructional costs rose. The district’s coffers depleted when it built, furnished and staffed three new schools in the past two years to keep up with population growth.

For some school employees who learned during the past week that they would not be offered a job next year, the decision to cut jobs may seem like a quick one. But Jill Elliott, board vice-chairwoman, explained that the decision was not made overnight.

"It was not a snap decision," she said. "We all thought long and hard about it, and we’ve all lost sleep over it."