Like most other government-funded programs, education has undergone detrimental cuts this year, and school districts are bracing for possibly more in the future due to the state's budget woes. While his job is to promote a thriving learning environment for county students, he now has the difficult job of letting some teachers go.
"There are no easy answers," Saylor told a large gathering of teachers at James A. Cawood High School. The school board's monthly meeting had to be relocated to the school's Little Theater because of the crowd.
"We're looking at over a million dollars in cuts. Hopefully, it won't be that bad, but we've got to base things on a worse-case scenario. It's an unfortunate thing that we have to get into personnel."
Teachers and concerned parents gathered at Cawood suggested one option a cut in central office staff. After assistant superintendent Gary Hensley said the 2003-2004 staffing plan will include six cuts in teaching positions at Cawood, one parent stood up and asked how many cuts were going to take place in central office, to which Hensley replied "one certified and two classified positions."
The packed theater was proof that educators and parents were ready to debate the issue, but board chairman Gary Farmer said time for approval had run out.
"This board has to pass a budget this evening," Farmer said. "We just don't know what we're working with right now, and we have to base everything on a worse-case scenario budget. Later, we can always add back, but we can't take away."
Board member Arlene Brown was reluctant to vote on a plan that included a lot of ifs. She was hesitant about teacher reductions, too.
"Before we start cutting teachers, we need to start making cuts in central office," said Brown, who drew applause from the crowd.
Hensley explained the proposed faculty cuts at Cawood were based on a 26-1 classroom ratio. He also surmised that some central office positions were grant funded and that many had a lot of time in as former teachers.
When time came to take action on the matter, board member Brenda Henson made the motion to accept the staffing plan, which was seconded by Pam Sherman Sheffield. Brown and board member Myra Mosley hesitated before they voted no.
Farmer was the tie breaker, casting his vote in support of the staffing plan. He said the issue did, however, warrant more discussion. He called for site-based groups and principals to meet in a workshop next month, and asked for a date to be set by Monday.
Hensley also announced that four music education positions and some in special education will be abolished. Mosley voiced her disapproval.
"I have reservations," she said. "I can't see taking art and music teachers out of our schools."
Hensley then said the board will have to cut $125,000 "from somewhere else."
Gary Hackler, the district's curriculum supervisor, said arts and humanities only account for 5 percent of the CATS tests. He also said those positions were created when the district had more money to help raise test scores.
The motion calling for the abolished positions failed with Mosley, Brown and Sheffield voting no and Henson and Farmer voting yes.