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Decision on staff cuts still pending

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Who will stay and who will go?

After spending about two hours in executive session this week, Georgetown County School District board members and administrators are still asking that question as they work to finish next year’s budget.

Superintendant Randy Dozier said he gave board members a rough draft of his recommendations for positions and contracts during the session. Marthena Grate Morant, the district’s director of human resources, said deciding what jobs will be cut is a “work in progress.” Openings, from resignations and retirements, change every day, she and Dozier said.

While they don’t have answers yet, their work will end May 15 when the district releases contracts.

The district is closing a $1.5 million gap in its $75 million budget for the current fiscal year and looking for a way to work with a $71 million budget next fiscal year. That could include cutting about 20 positions from the 1,600 district employees, according to Jim Dumm, chairman of the board.

“I can’t finalize anything and say what we have,” Morant said, but with additional federal money for special services and lower income students available from the stimulus money, she said her department is trying to set up positions that can use those funds.

“We are going to try and keep as many as we can,” she said.

Dozier elaborated.

“With the stimulus money hopefully we’ll not have too many people out of a job, but we have to really revamp the curriculum and change job descriptions for them,” he said, referring to the same federal money Morant described.

While Waccamaw Neck schools aren’t classified as Title I facilities, Board Member Teresa Bennani, who has children in the Waccamaw schools, said area schools are not likely to loose teachers because their enrollments grew. The middle school and high school might even get a foreign language teacher to help them meet IB requirements.

Although Dozier wanted a final budget by this week’s meeting, the state legislature gave school districts more time to finalize their budgets and release contracts. Time is letting the district be more creative with funds, Bennani said.

“It’s not as dire as we first thought when the number 100 was thrown around,” said Dumm.

Dozier and Dumm said that the district, despite cuts, will maintain small class sizes. Grants can also help fund special projects and even keep positions.

“That is some good news,” Dozier said. “We have an additional technology grant, of $68,000 and another of $28,000 for staff development which helped them renew a position for next year.”

As the board and administration work on finalizing the budget, Dumm encouraged residents to be patient.

“Be as understanding as possible because we’re not going to hide a thing. As soon as we know things we’ll share things openly,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a better idea on May 5.”

The school board meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Beck Administration Building in Georgetown to discuss the budget.

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