Peach cuts $1 million in teacher salaries

A number of Peach County teachers will not be returning to work in the district next year because of disappearing state revenue, according to Superintendent Susan Clark.

Affected teachers were notified that their positions would be cut by their school principals, as well as in writing, April 2, the day before Peach County’s spring break began.

While Clark would not say how many teachers’ jobs were cut, the reductions will account for $1 million of $1.2 million in additional cuts the school district will have to undertake.

Personnel expenses make up 85 percent of the system’s budget, Clark said.“There’s nothing pretty about a reduction in force and nothing easy about reduction in force,” said Clark. “Any time you make decisions about personnel, it’s not easy.”

The staff reductions are taking place as a result of a board policy implemented in June 2009.

The policy allows the district to reduce staff for a number of reasons, including revenue shortfalls at federal, state and local levels.

“We find it a necessity to be able to operate the schools as best we can,” Director of Human Resources Judith Vinson said.

Teachers were evaluated primarily based on performance, and the time the teacher has been in the system was a secondary consideration.

“I want teachers in classroom who can do the job for students, regardless of whether the teacher’s been there for 20 years or two years,” Clark said. “My job is to make sure we can have best teachers for our children.”

The staff layoffs follow the board’s decision to adopt the four-day week and other cuts, said Clark, and will lead to larger class sizes.

“You finally get down to the point where you don’t have anything to cut but personnel,” she said.

State law allows for tenured teachers — those hired by the same school system for four or more years — to request a hearing within 20 calendar days of receiving the notice of contract non-renewal. Those teachers must also be given the reasons for their dismissals.

At the same time, the school system is looking to hire a director of transportation, who will earn between $50,000 to $65,000, depending on individual qualifications, Vinson said.

Peach County’s last director of transportation, Harry Goff, left the position in fall 2009.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.