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THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2007
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Elementary counselors get double duty

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

As part of the Morgan County school board's continuing cost-cutting measures, the system's elementary counselors will have to serve two schools each next year.

Superintendent Bob Balch said enrollment at Falkville, Sparkman, Lacey's Spring, Ryan, Eva and Union Hill schools is only high enough to earn funds for a half-time counselor at each. This forced the board not to renew the contracts of two non-tenured counselors at a meeting earlier this month.

West Morgan and Danville-Neel are the only elementary schools large enough to receive funding for full-time counselors.

On Wednesday at a called meeting, the board reassigned Matt Stiles from Falkville to Falkville and Sparkman, Lynn Alexander from Lacey's Spring to Ryan and Eva, and Marian Bowling from Union Hill to Union Hill and Lacey's Spring.

School board member Betty Hackett complained that Bowling is already responsible for 400 students at a Title 1 school that has the second-highest enrollment of Hispanics in the county and this move adds another 400 students.

"I see no logic in this move," Hackett said. "It's really overloading the counselors."

Balch said the school system saves about $120,000 with the moves. The school system is under a state mandate to cut expenses and build its reserve. Morgan County projects ending the budget year with $1.6 million in reserves, while the state wants it to have about $4.5 million.

The system must show progress toward rebuilding that savings, and school officials are trying to achieve this goal by not refilling positions lost to retirements, by resignations and by non-renewal of non-tenured contracts.

The school system is applying for a federal grant that Balch hopes would allow counselors to go back to working at only one school each.

He said he hopes to re-employ both counselors cut in different positions.

"This is all about money," Balch said. "Hopefully, this is only for one year, and we can restore those positions next year."

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