Projections are that state funding will fall another $2 million in the 2011-2012 school year, adding more challenges to keep education quality up while resources decline
Among the cuts Friday were Spanish language teaching positions in the county’s three elementary schools, media assistant positions in each school and one ROTC position, School Superintendent Travis Reeves said this afternoon. Two ROTC instructor positions remain intact.
“It has been a very difficult day,” Reeves said in an afternoon interview.
He talked to all affected employees personally to explain the situation. He related that he was concerned for the employees and the effect their loss would have on learning.
“It is kind of like your personal budget at home. You know you have so much to work with and you have to find a way to make it fit.”
The Spanish language studies in elementary grades is important, but it is not required by the state, Reeves said
Among the teachers who lost jobs Friday was Michelle Weller, who taught the Spanish program at Mountain View Elementary School.
Weller’s father, Bob Fournier, said today that the instructors in the programs at Mountain View, Blue Ridge and Westwood elementary schools were called to the Board of Education office this morning and informed of the decision.
Weller said his daughter was told the position elimination was the result of cost cutting and that other positions within the system were to be cut, also.
The state has undergone a severe budget crisis in the recent economic downturn and teaching positions across the state and nation have been eliminated in similar actions unknown for decades.
The Spanish programs eliminated taught elementary school students to speak Spanish.
“It is a shame. “I’m embarrassed for our county and our state and our nation really. It is an important part of our culture and our future really,” Fournier said. “We’re supposed to have all that lottery money going to education. I’m not sure where it’s going. Somebody’s getting rich off the lottery I think.”
That was a reference to the state Education Lottery which was approved with strong arguments that the money would be used to support education.
Weller began teaching in 2004 after graduating from the last class to go through Beaver Creek High School. She attended Guilford College and studied Spanish abroad for a time before returning to the Wilkes County Schools.
Reeves and the school system’s assistant superintendent for finance and business, Phyllis Yates, said the school board has been preparing for this eventuality for a year.
On average the $1 million price tag equates to 20 teaching positions, Reeves said.
Administrators have taken steps throughout the year to avoid losing that number of slots
The financial hit for last school year was half a million and officials found ways to avoid eliminating any teachers.
They used attrition and combining positions to keep people working albeit in combined roles.
The same strategy continued in preparation for the upcoming school year. The board also took $100,000 set aside for text books to keep positions available.
Reeves argued that he and the board support efforts to keep class sizes small believing that is important to the successes of students.