Schools budget would cost 105 jobs

Published 10:56 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

A proposed Suffolk Public Schools budget presented both at Wednesday’s City Council meeting and Thursday’s School Board meeting envisions cutting 105 positions and keeping school employees’ salaries static in the coming year.

The proposed budget for the 2009-2010 year deals with an expected fall in state revenues of more than $6.1 million.

The specific job cuts that would help balance the budget would include 26 teachers, eight teacher’s assistants, nine Standards of Learning support teachers, three driver education instructors, two lead teachers, seven bus drivers, four bus aides, and many other positions.

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Milton Liverman, superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools, said 54 of the positions are already vacant, because they remained unfilled after a hiring freeze went into effect. However, 51 people currently are in the other at-risk positions. Liverman said the school division would make an effort to transfer those 51 people to other positions that come up through vacancies and resignations.

“The saddest part of this is many of those are the same positions that helped get us fully accredited,” Liverman said in a press briefing Thursday afternoon. “We’re going to try very hard to place everyone whose position was eliminated.”

Finding other positions for those who would lose their current jobs would have been easier in other years, he added. But this year, job openings are scarcer, because people are holding on to their jobs.

For example, about 130 Suffolk Public Schools employees are eligible to retire this year. So far, only seven have said they will do so. Ordinarily, about 30 to 40 employees retire each year.

Liverman also pointed out that in making the cuts, the primary focus was maintaining the instructional quality in the classroom.

“This is what I propose that will have the least impact — it will have some impact — but have the least impact instructionally in Suffolk Public Schools.”

Liverman said the proposed budget is based on two main assumptions: that the General Assembly will accept the current budget as is and that the local support from the city will remain stable.

Among the major cuts, the three schools that would lose assistant principals would be elementary schools with less than 500 students, Liverman said. Additionally, the Behind the Wheel driving program has been cut from all of the high schools, but Liverman pointed out that this program has not been fully utilized in the past years, because a large number of students use private driving instructors.

On Wednesday night, Councilman Leroy Bennett asked Liverman what effect losing bus drivers would have on the school transportation system. Liverman said all seven positions being cut are currently vacant, and therefore the schools will be able to maintain the current level of service.