Muscogee school district confirms 31 teacher layoffs, more to come

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMay 16, 2014 

The Muscogee County School District administration building is at 2960 Macon Road.

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

The Muscogee County School District has laid off 31 teachers — and more are expected.

The Ledger-Enquirer on Thursday afternoon heard talk of mass layoffs around the district and asked superintendent David Lewis to explain. He replied in an email Friday afternoon, saying he was traveling to Florida for his doctoral classes and he asked district communications director Valerie Fuller to reply on his behalf. Fuller emailed this response:

“There have been some rumors, which we want to immediately clear up about numbers to date. These are the facts as we know them at this hour. I have consulted with the superintendent, human resources (Kathy Tessin), and finance (Sharon Adams) to be able to accurately share the following information with you and the public.

“At this time, thirty-one (31) people have not been offered a teaching contract for the 2014-2015 school year based on reduction of budgeted positions, which are related to the high school and middle school scheduling changes.

“This does not give us a total of all the cuts/reductions because we are still in the process of reviewing acceptance of contracts, retirements and resignations.

“Contract responses must be received by May 29, 2014.

“As we continue to review contract responses and positions, we are preparing for the June 2, 2014, budget presentation to determine what is needed to present a balanced budget.”

The Ledger-Enquirer replied with the following questions:

• How many “cuts/reductions” are needed to balance the budget?

• How much money does that equal?

• How much money does laying off those 31 teachers save?

• How much more money needs to be saved to balance the budget?

In a follow-up voicemail, Fuller said, “The other information you’re requesting I don’t expect to have today. It’s an ongoing process we’re going through with human resourecs and personnel. … Thank you for your patience. Thank you for understanding. You can expect an update for sure on all of this information as we pull it all together on June 2. We have to make sure we have all the information and the facts correct.”

In another email, Fuller added, "Non-renewals could be based on non-performance, lack of demand for courses, failure to meet certification requirements, as well as budgetary considerations, and projected student enrollment."

The Ledger-Enquirer reported earlier this week, when Lewis was asked Tuesday what the chances are for layoffs, he said, “Yes, that will happen.”

Asked how many, he said, “Every day it’s changing. We’re meeting with people who are eligible for retirement. There are people who transfer in and out daily, so it’s very much a state of flux, but we are starting with notifying those people that are in their first or second year, the non-tenured folks in the specific areas where we have overages.”

Lewis’ administration began planning for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1, with a projected shortfall of $10 million to $11 million.

Since March, the Muscogee County School Board has approved the superintendent’s central office reorganization, reduction of high school schedules from eight periods to seven periods (allowing for high school staff to be cut by as much as 15 percent) and the consolidation of pre-kindergarten from 30 sites to nine sites. And the district’s division chiefs are in their third round of searching for more cuts through zero-based budgeting, Lewis said.

That leaves the administration looking to save another $2.5 million to $3 million in the next three weeks, Lewis said. The preliminary FY 2015 budget is due to be presented to the board during a called meeting June 2. The board’s next work session is June 9, and the final budget is scheduled to be voted on at the June 16 meeting. This year’s budget estimated $271 million in expenses (85 percent in salaries and benefits).

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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