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School layoffs delayed

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

NASHVILLE — A decision about potential layoffs in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools has been postponed and likely will not be made until December, members of the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Finance Committee decided on Tuesday.

At the advice of Superintendent Shelton Jefferies, committee members voted to delay the decision until after an audit is conducted next week and the audit report is presented to the full board, likely at the December board meeting that will be held after the midterm elections. Five board seats are up for grabs this year.

“I make a motion that we allow the auditors to come in to assess the findings so that we can make a better informed decision,” said school board member LaShawnda Washington.

The motion was unanimously approved.

At the last finance committee meeting in September, committee members recommended the elimination of 13 full-time positions The reduction in force, if approved, would have cut five positions from the technology department, two media specialists positions, three guidance counselors and three social workers. In addition, other employees may have to serve in new roles as teacher assistants and some positions would be converted to grant-funded positions, Jefferies said at last month’s meeting.

At the October board meeting, several board members said they had heard concerns from stakeholders, especially about the cutting of the counselor and social worker positions. School board members asked Jefferies and his team to go back to the drawing board and see if cuts could be made to other areas.

Jefferies told committee members Tuesday that the school district is limited by its funding from federal, state and local sources in addition to some grant funding. Each of these funds comes with restrictions that limit how positions can be funded.

Jefferies also said that of the 13 positions being considered for reduction in force, five positions are currently vacant and the school district is currently under a hiring freeze.

The suggested reduction in force would reduce the number of media coordinators in the school district by 9 percent, the number of school counselors by 8 percent and the technology department by 22 percent. However, committee members expressed special concern that the number of social workers would be cut by 30 percent. 

If the school board votes to accept the reduction in force, the school district would be left with seven social workers to serve the 28 schools in the district. But Jefferies reminded committee members that the school district has expanded the Communities in Schools program that helps support students. He also said Nash County social workers would still be available to students.

“What this body has to remember is that the county offers social services and as educators, we are required to report and solicit help for students and families that need it. While I feel that the loss of a social worker is a challenge, having that complement of services that we have in partnership with organizations like OIC will help us network with sister agencies in the county to help provide services to those fragile students,” Jefferies said.

School board member Wayne Doll noted that the school district had already cut more than $1 million in funding from the Central Office when the current budget was drawn up. These cuts included the elimination of a communications position, two finance positions, two central office administrators, three Communities in Schools positions and an assistant principal position. In addition, other positions were converted to other departments or funding sources and cuts were made to band programs, transportation, postage, athletics, testing services and public information supplies.

Board Vice Chairman Bill Sharpe reminded the committee that a decision cannot be put off forever.

“We have been hearing opinions from all sides — but at the end of the day, it is what it is. We have to know that we can make a decision when decisions are hard. You cannot spend what you don’t have. You can’t retain resources that you can’t afford. We have three sources of funding and we can’t control any of them. We can only manage the process,” he said.

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