Edgecombe school board votes to cut 11 jobs

By COREY DAVIS

Staff Writer

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TARBORO – Edgecombe County Board of Education voted to cut 11 positions and settled a lawsuit with a former Edgecombe County Public Schools’ employee during Monday’s special call board meeting.

The board approved a reduction-in-force recommended by School Superintendent John Farrelly to eliminate five kindergarten through third grade teacher assistants, five exceptional children’s program teacher assistants and one 
exceptional children’s program personal care provider. Farrelly said a total of seven individuals will be losing their jobs because two kindergarten through third grade and two exceptional children’s program teacher assistants were either retiring or resigning from their positions. The school district will save $325,000 for those reductions, added Farrelly.

Reductions in the number of teacher assistants are necessary because the school system’s decline in Average Daily Membership has reduced the system’s state funding for assistants in kindergarten through third-grade, Farrelly said. He added the reduction in classified positions was because of a budget shortfall and decrease in the number of students in the program. Farrelly said the cut in positions are less than what the district suffered last year.

“There is a greater impact for us in the district being without the kindergarten through third-grade teachers,” he said. “We’re still holding to our formula of all preschool and kindergarten classes having a teacher assistant. Our principals will become proficient at sharing first and second grade assistants with a certain amount allotted at each school. For the exceptional children program, there will be no services cut and children will still get the same support.”

The school board voted on a proposed 2014-15 budget at its April meeting, and is awaiting a county commissioner vote to determine the funding appropriate to the school system in the upcoming fiscal year. The school district’s proposed $52 million spending plan is a decrease of nearly $6 million from last year. The school system requested an additional $412,933 from the county in a joint meeting, but the commissioners’ proposed budget allocates the same amount of funding as a year ago. Nevertheless, Farrelly doesn’t expect anymore personnel cuts once the final budget is determined.

“The teacher supplement is something short and long term that we have to address at some point, Farrelly said. “We have budget limitations and right now, we can’t increase the teacher’s supplement. The county commissioners have stated that they weren’t going to put our recommended increases in the budget. It is unfortunate because the increases that we ask for were reasonable. But what I hoped now is that we are funded at the same level, and if that happens, I don’t anticipate anymore employee cuts.”

After coming back from closed session, Board Attorney Deborah Stagner read a statement about the board agreeing to settle a lawsuit with Donnie Atkinson. Stagner said the board agreed to pay Atkinson $45,000 in exchange for full dismissal of the lawsuit with the N.C. School Boards Trust contributing to pay half of the settlement amount.

Atkinson was terminated from his job as head custodian at G.W. Carver Elementary School in June 26, 2013.

Atkinson filed his complaint Aug. 28, 2013, in the federal court in Greenville. Atkinson and another former school employee claimed they were fired because of their failure to obtain a Commercial Drivers License, and that they had medical disabilities which prevented them from driving a school bus.

They cited the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as grounds for their claims.