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Boards debate school job cuts

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, October 19, 2018

The situation grew tense Thursday night during a joint meeting of Nash County commissioners and the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education as county commissioners raised questions about the school board’s consideration of cutting 13 employees from the payroll in an attempt to balance the budget.

The reduction in force, if approved, would cut five positions from the technology department, two media specialist, three guidance counselors and three social workers. At the October board meeting, the school board voted to table the issue until after an audit of the school district is completed this week and the results are presented to the board at an upcoming board meeting yet to be determined.

County commissioner Fred Belfield asked if the school district had any other options other than cutting the student support positions in the district. 

Nash-Rocky Mount Superintendent Shelton Jefferies said there were other options to consider and they would be explored by the school district after the audit is complete. 

“If there are any other options, I feel that you should look at them before deciding to cut guidance counselor and social work positions,” Belfield said.

School board member Wayne Doll pointed out that the school district already has trimmed close to $1.2 million in costs from the central office during the last budget cycle.

Nash County board Vice Chairman Wayne Outlaw questioned why the school board was delaying the decision or seeking other alternative funding cuts now instead of dealing with the issue.

School board member Evelyn Bulluck said the school board is trying to make a responsible, informed decision.

“We feel that we need to get all the information we can before making these cuts,” Bulluck said. “If some board or person would give us the $1.4 million we need to balance the budget, we would not have to deal with this ugly situation. But this is the reality we have to deal with and we have to balance the budget.”

Outlaw then asked about the five principal mentorship positions that he has seen on an earlier budget, positions that he said were costing the district $54,000 each.

“Is that something you may need to change?” Outlaw asked. “I think our principals must  already be pretty skilled at the rate we are paying them.”

After asking several former principals on the school board how they had been mentored and hearing them respond that mentoring had primarily come from older, more experienced principals in the district, Outlaw suggested that may be an alternative.

Jefferies said the school district currently has only three professionals in the district serving six or seven novice principals. He also defended the use of mentors and other forms of professional development in the district.

“The challenges facing leadership in this district are far different than they were in past,” Jefferies said. “You cannot compare apples and oranges.”

Bulluck responded to Outlaw’s comments as well.

“I hope we have the right and the authority to exercise our judgment in using our human resources in a way that best serves our students,” Bulluck said. “I don’t agree with the implication that we are misallocating our funds.”

However, members of both boards came together in better agreement in discussing the $10 million grant the school board received toward construction of a new elementary school.

“We want to thank you for collaborating to get those grant funds,” school board Chairwoman Ann Edge told the commissioners. “This shows all that we can accomplish if we work as a team.”

The issue of the school performance scores for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools was tabled until a later time. However, county board Chairman Robbie Davis said the issue is of concern to county officials.

“We are concerned about where the school district is at,” Davis said. “We want to discuss ways to make it better.”

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