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More time off without pay for teachers

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Gifted and talented summer arts students won’t be dancing and singing this summer.

Their program was a victim of Georgetown County School Board’s approximately $1.2 million cut this week.

The budget reduction comes after the district absorbed about $2.7 million in state cuts in 2009, leaving it $3.2 million in the red. The extra $500,000 was money the district needed to balance the 2010 budget. The current cut reduced district losses to $2 million, leaving $5.9 million in reserve.

The majority of the cut comes from the half-day teachers will have to take without pay. The budget reduction also eliminates eight part-time positions and reduces travel and supply accounts to prevent teacher layoffs and increased class sizes.

Cuts were necessary, according to District Superintendent Randy Dozier, but they were still difficult to make.

“I had a little trauma,” he said. “Clearly these are not non-essential funds. This is going to impact someone.”

At Waccamaw High School, principal David Hammel said it could mean reduced responsibilities for his part-time assistant principal, Patricia Canada, and goodbye to Stanley Vick, the security officer, who is a familiar faces for drivers coming to and from the school, and people at sporting events.

“They both would be greatly missed,” he said.

Hammel said he’s also spoken with board member Teresa Bennani about stopping the International Baccalaureate degree program at the high school until the district can afford to invest in more teacher training to build IB.

“As a parent at Waccamaw High School, I know the AP and PACE classes suffer at the expense of the IB program which is underutilized,” she said. “If you’ve got resources only able to serve two, four or six students, we need to be realistic.”

In anticipation of additional cuts, Dozier is watching the General Assembly’s actions as they try to create a budget for the 2011 fiscal year.

If they follow the state Department of Education’s suggestions, the district could save money by not having to meet unfunded mandates and pay for unnecessary tests. The department also suggested trimming or eliminating the extra money National Board Certified teachers receive for earning their certification.

State Secretary of Education Jim Rex would also like to see the second decade of National Board Certification eliminated.

“The second option is to allow fewer people to come in or lower the stipend,” he said. “The ultimate answer is for the state to embrace how we compensate teachers.”

Currently, Rex’s plan could affect 135 teachers in the district.

Waccamaw Elementary School principal Vervatine Reid said that particular cut would affect her teachers.

“At this point it would cause the teachers to redirect their thinking, and they will have to revisit their goals,” she said. “I hope if that takes place it’s on a temporary basis because students benefit from those teachers. Those I know in my building, are great teachers.”

To keep funding South Carolina education, Rex is also looking to the federal government for money. That’s why the state applied for Race to the Top funds, a competitive federal grant program for education that could potentially provide $60 million to $175 million for state K-12 education.

Rex and Dozier are hopeful South Carolina will see Race to the Top funding by this summer.

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