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A reduction in force plan gets school board approval

Anticipating the need to cut the county’s teaching staff, the Grady County Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a reduction in force plan as recommended by Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis.
Although the vote was unanimous, it was not taken without much discussion and it took Board Chairman Drew Pyrz to offer a second to Board member Teresa Gee Harris’ motion to put the matter up for a vote.
As part of the school system’s fiscal year 2010-2011 budget plan Dr. Pharis has targeted a reduction of certificated personnel by 15 to 20 in hopes of shaving $750,000 to $1 million from the system’s payroll.
As of Tuesday, according to the superintendent, 13 positions will be vacated by teachers who have either retired, resigned or have been non-renewed.
In light of that Pharis developed a reduction in force plan in accordance with the board policy on reductions in force.
Dr. Pharis’ plan calls for a minimum of one up to a maximum of three teaching positions to be eliminated. The superintendent, in consultation with school principals, have determined that these cuts can be made easier in grades kindergarten through fifth grade and have the least significant impact on the instructional program of the school system.
Board member Harris made the motion in order to allow discussion on the matter, but she was the first to question what the impact of the RIF on class sizes in the early grades would be.
“We all know how important smaller class sizes are for the younger grades,” Ms. Gee Harris said.
Dr. Pharis produced some computations that indicated that with the cuts class sizes would still fall below maximum class sizes allowed by the state. The superintendent agreed that the system should do whatever possible to maintain smaller class sizes.
Board members Joe Porter and Cuy Harrell III questioned Pharis’ reasoning for limiting the RIF to k-5 rather than expanding it to k-8 or even k-12.
“No particular school is being favored or picked on. This is a systemwide RIF. The principals and I have talked numerous times and we even conferred today. If we have to do a RIF it will involve the people we believe are the weakest in this grade span. We need the flexibility of the RIF and this is the area I think can more easily take a reduction and be less of an impact on our programs,” Dr. Pharis said.
Following the vote on the RIF plan the board retreated behind closed doors to discuss personnel with the superintendent. No action other than a vote to adjourn took place after the meeting was reopened to the public.
In related news, the board was updated on the FY2011 budget plan by Dr. Pharis.
In addition to the 13 teaching positions that are being eliminated by retirements, resignations and non-renewals Pharis says seven classified or non-teaching positions have been eliminated by attrition, which is about half of the superintendent’s targeted cuts of 10-15. Those eliminated positions would cut the system’s payroll by $150,000 to $225,000.
Dr. Pharis also told board members it may be necessary to fund some extended day costs for teachers at Cairo High School since the school had lost two science teachers.
“We can’t put a number on the savings for extended day costs because we may or may not have to do some extended day for science at the high school. If we can schedule some extended day sessions for science to keep classes below the maximum class size levels,” Dr. Pharis said.

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