The DeKalb County School Board voted April 27 to cut 133 jobs, a move school officials say will save the district $9.3 million.
Additionally, the district has implemented cost-saving measures by reducing teachers’ salaries by 6.25 percent. District spokesman Walter Woods said the reduction has been written into the teacher contracts in past years but the board always restores the reductions.
“Every year we send out the same contract and we put in the 6.25 salary decrease,” Woods said. “Nothing is new this year.”
Woods said the board would decide whether to restore the salary levels after the budget process is completed. The budget was originally slated to come before the board in April but has been delayed because of an anticipated shortfall in revenue.
The cuts are the result of a district-wide analysis Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson tasked officials with earlier this month and represent less than 2 percent of the DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) entire workforce.
Tekshia Ward-Smith, chief human resources officer for DCSD said in past years the district based school staffing on the number of contracts given out rather than on the actual allotment for each school. However, Ward-Smith said that will change for the 2012-13 school year.
“The superintendent has developed a needs-based budgeting approach to determine the actual student-based needs of local schools and the school district as a whole. The resulting data to date has shown funds available to the classrooms can be maximized by addressing overstaffing and program elimination,” Ward-Smith said.
Officials said the cuts fall into two categories: school-based overages and program elimination. Ward-Smith said the district has identified 96 school employees, with an average salary of $70,000, will be cut due to overstaffing. This will save the district approximately $6.7 million.
“Any school-based employee identified in a position that is proposed for elimination will be eligible to seek a teacher contract in another content area should such a vacancy, due to teacher attrition, become available,” Ward-Smith said.
Ward-Smith said the school-based cuts were determined by assessing each employee’s professional expertise and certifications, performance and seniority.
Under the program elimination category 37 graduation coaches and specialists, who receive an average salary of $70,000, who will be cut. Ward-Smith said the reason for eliminating these positions is because originally, the salaries were paid by a state grant.
“Five or six years ago the governor gave us money and a dropout prevention grant whereby graduation coaches were placed within schools. That was a program that was funded by the governor up until about three years ago,” Ward-Smith said. “Through the restructuring we’re going to be able to absorb some of the tasks and responsibilities that those individuals currently perform.”
Ward-Smith said the elimination of graduation coaches and specialists will save the district approximately $2.6 million. Like the school-based employees, those whose positions were eliminated will be eligible to apply for another teaching job within the district as long as they are certified.
Officials said the cuts are coming now because May 15 is the latest the district can inform employees their contracts will not be renewed, due to state mandates. Ward-Smith said all those affected by the cuts will receive notification by May 11.
“We’re hoping to be able to absorb a lot of these particular individuals through natural attrition in the district,” Atkinson said.
Woods said each year approximately 200 teachers retire or leave the district for various reasons, and officials hoped the positions will be able to be filled by the 133 employees.
“We looked at this very clearly based on student allotment–exactly what we do need–and we made sure that these needs were covered by other individuals,” Woods said.
Board member Don McChesney pointed out that even if those 133 individuals did manage to obtain another contract from the district due to attrition, it would still be an entirely different position and salary range.
“This is not a pleasant thing, but overstaffed is overstaffed, and we’ve got to move on it. A lot of this started because of what is now an unfunded mandate by the state,” McChesney said. “I hope in the future as these items come up—because I know they will from time to time—that we can [tell] the board this was an item originally started under a state mandate that has now fallen [to us].”