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THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2007
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45 teachers
out of work

Morgan system looks to cut costs; superintendent says some will be rehired

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

The Morgan County Board of Education removed about 45 teachers from the 2007-08 school year roll, but it's still unknown how much money that could save the system on its quest to fill a state-mandated reserve fund.

The number is two fewer than Superintendent Bob Balch recommended Tuesday after one school principal helped persuade the board to remove two of her four teachers from the chopping block.

More than 15 of those teachers are retiring or resigning, and the rest were not renewed for next school year.

Some of those cut positions will be replaced by transferring tenured teachers from other schools, Balch said, and some whose contracts were not renewed will be rehired depending on how many vacancies the schools have in August.

So it's too early to tell how much money the school system can save from reduced teaching units, he said.

The board will review Balch's transfer recommendations May 23.

The end of the school year typically results in teacher cuts and transfers as school systems try to arrange the number of teachers proportional to projected student rolls.

Morgan County has the added pressure of cutting teaching units so it can save money that will go toward a state-mandated reserve fund. The state wants the school system to have about $4.5 million in its reserve, equal to one month's operating expenses.

Morgan County is one of 30 state school systems that have not met the reserve quota.

The board heard several principals and parents plead not to cut certain untenured teachers, but except for two teachers at Falkville High School, none were restored.

Falkville will get to keep Mike Johnson, a social studies teacher, and Laura Segars, a science teacher.

Falkville Principal Sue Wood said that will prevent her from increasing class sizes in those two subjects, and she added that both teachers are deeply involved in extra curricular activities.

Johnson helps coach three sports teams and helps take care of the football and baseball fields. Segars coaches two sports, is junior class sponsor and is the school's Youth for Christ sponsor.

The board was divided on keeping those two.

Carolyn Wallace, Mike Tarpley, Ken Henson and Chairman Jimmy Dobbs voted to maintain the teachers. Dora Woodard voted to stick with Balch's recommendation to cut the positions. Tom Earwood and Betty Hackett abstained.

"This was very hard," Woodard said, explaining her commitment to attaining the reserve fund. "And I especially want to say to Ms. Wood my vote was not against you, it was just something I had to do. When you don't have the money, you don't have the money."

She said she didn't want the state to take over the Morgan County system as it did to two other systems that didn't show they were trying to fill their reserve funds.

Wallace said the state ought to be satisfied with the county's efforts, so she didn't have a problem with saving two teaching units.

"Sometimes you've got to vote for the kids and send a statement to the state about mandates," she said.

The school board approved a plan earlier this year to start building its reserve fund by not replacing teachers or staff lost to retirements, resignations or non-renewals of contract.

Morgan County projects ending the 2007 fiscal budget year with $1.6 million, about $3 million short of the mandate.

Balch said he has no set number of teaching units he wants to cut from next year's budget, but he figured if it can reduce 15, it will save the system about $900,000.

"If we can do that, that's great," he said. "We won't know what it is until our board meetings are over in May, June and July before school starts."

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