05/12/11 — Duplin notifies 210 of possible layoffs

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Duplin notifies 210 of possible layoffs

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 12, 2011 1:46 PM

Duplin County school officials announced Wednesday plans to cut 210 positions for the 2011-12 year, including teachers, teacher assistants and other employees.

This morning, school Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan explained that the Duplin Board of Education, which approved the reductions in force during a special called meeting Tuesday, is acting in response to the anticipated state budget cuts and loss of federal stimulus dollars.

"We felt it was the right thing to do, to go ahead and let them know the situation," said Dawn Craft, director of public relations and parent affairs in the school district.

She explained that over the last several years the school system has worked to save jobs, cutting through retirement and attrition whenever possible, but that this year, budget cuts finally caught up to them.

"It's unprecedented for us," Ms. Craft said.

She said that while the state budget proposal doesn't specifically mandate teacher cuts -- instead legislators have said they intend the focus to be on teacher assistants in second and third grades -- it does require cuts to be made, leaving the details up to the local districts.

"The state does not cut teachers. They just want us to return back a large amount of money to them," she said.

Of the 210 positions, 48 are teaching positions and 52 are teaching assistants. Of those, 18 of the teaching positions are being eliminated through retirements and attrition. The balance of the 210 positions are coming from other staff, including pre-kindergarten, exceptional children and other federally funded programs.

Ms. Craft explained that the positions that were cut were identified with the help of the principals at each school based on their student populations and educational needs, looking at levels of experience, certification and performance, beginning with first-year teachers.

"It's a common sense and logical way to go about that. It was a very tough process, but a thorough and fair process," Obasohan said.

Other teacher positions are being funded through Educational Jobs Funding and through a portion of the lawsuit settlement with county commissioners. Race to the Top federal funding, however, Ms. Craft said, cannot be used to save current job positions.

But, Ms. Craft said, if state budget cuts don't end up being as deep as currently anticipated, then they will look to bring back as many of those teachers on the reduction in force list as possible.

Until then, Obasohan said principals and central office staff will be working to figure out how to best allocate their remaining resources to minimize the impact on existing classes and programs.

"It's early to tell what the impact will be, but it will impact us. When you remove this many teachers from a school system this size, it will impact us," he said. "We must adjust."