Salisbury Post, 8/16/14

Forty-six Rowan-Salisbury employees found out Friday they will be without a job this school year.

“Schools operate like families, so when you lose someone on your staff — for a school, it’s like losing a family member,” said Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.

Due to state budget cuts and a dwindling fund balance, the district cut 79 positions — 18 district-wide personnel, 15 school-based personnel and 46 teacher assistants.

Thirty-three of those positions were either vacant or the employees were moved into other open positions they were qualified to fill.

Of the 15 district-wide positions that were eliminated, eight were certified personnel positions, including seven behavioral specialists and one instructional program lead. All of these people were moved into new positions. Seven of the positions were clerical — two of those workers have been reassigned, the other five have not. Three other district-wide support positions were eliminated, but those workers have also been reassigned.

Most of the 15 school-based positions that were cut impacted the district’s middle schools, as most of the positions were middle school guidance secretaries and SCALE, or remediation, teachers.

Seven of those positions eliminated were instructional certified staff members. All but two of those employees have been reassigned. Eight in-school clerical positions were cut, and only one of those staff members has been reassigned.

Forty-six teacher assistant positions were cut, resulting in 32 layoffs — an average of two per school. Many of these people doubled as bus drivers as well.

China Grove, Koontz and Hurley lost four teacher assistants each; Isenberg and Knollwood will go without three assistants; Overton, Cleveland, Shive, Enochville, Faith, Granite Quarry, Hanford Dole, Millbridge, Morgan, Mount Ulla, North Rowan, Rockwell and Woodleaf elementary schools lost two and Bostian and Landis will lose only one teacher assistant.

Moody said the district “will feel an impact” with the loss of these staff members.

There will be fewer adults in the classroom to provide instruction and relationship building, and services from the district office might take longer.

Moody said making the cuts wasn’t easy, but the choices were made “by necessity.”

“These employees haven’t done anything wrong. They just got caught up in a financial crisis,” she said.

As they continue to try to place people in other positions, however, Moody said she hopes that number will become “fewer and fewer.”

The board approved the reduction in force Friday during a called work session. Those whose positions were affected by the cuts were notified Friday by their immediate supervisors.

On Monday, employees who were laid off will meet with Moody, Human Relations Director Kristi Rhone and representatives from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, the United Way and people who can help them file for unemployment.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will offer free resume writing help Monday. For the next two weeks these employees are still on the payroll of the Rowan-Salisbury School System, they will be encouraged to attend the college’s job search workshops and go to interviews instead of reporting to work.

The district will also try to fill any open positions with those who were laid off, while still hiring the best candidate. Open positions include seven bus driver positions and substitute teacher positions.

Unfortunately, both positions come with a reduction in pay, and there are no benefits for substitute teachers. Bus driver positions are only four and a half to five and a half hours each day, and substitute teachers can only work three and a half days each week.

“We’ll be offering them as many opportunities as we can find,” Moody said, adding that these people are “highly qualified. They’re outstanding in their field.”

School administrators used rubric to score all teacher assistants on attributes such as college degree, years of experience and job performance. Those with the lowest scores were the ones who were let go.

This isn’t the first time the district has cut positions due to cuts in funding. Since the financial downturn in 2008, roughly 300 positions have been cut.

This time the cuts are because of reductions in state teacher assistant funding and the district’s fund balance.

The state budget called for a 22 percent, or $1.3 million, reduction in funding for teacher assistants.

In addition, the district has been using its fund balance to make up for funding cuts. Over the past 10 years, the fund balance has fluctuated between $9.2 million and its current state at $2.9 million. Since 2011, the balance has consistently decreased each year.

At its current state, the fund balance is at the 8 percent threshold — the lowest amount recommended by the Local Government Commission.

Eliminating the 79 positions will make it possible to achieve a balanced budget and not dip into the fund balance.