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Two teacher positions eliminated

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By Michelle Hollenhead

Two Morgan County Elementary School teacher positions have been eliminated, leaving two teachers — and the school system — scrambling to find a solution.

While both teachers in question remain employed in some capacity, neither is currently in the position for which they were hired.

“I know it’s a business decision, but I hate the way it had to happen,” said Board of Education Chairman Wade Summers last week during the regular BOE work session. “The numbers support [the decision], but to let people go after just three weeks looks bad on us.”

“This gives me a sour note, that it would even happen,” said Board Member Glen Moore

Based on the state’s specifications for student-teacher ratio, both Wartburg Central Elementary’s Kindergarten group and Oakdale School’s second grade had one teacher too many.

Once the eliminations took place, one of the teachers was offered a postion as an aide, while the other was able to secure a temporary position for a teacher on maternity leave.

“Both of them were first-year teachers [for us], and there was every indication that they would be good ones,” Summers said.

“One of them had even left a job to come here.”

Director of Schools Ronnie Wilson told the Board that enrollment numbers “are hard to predict, especially in Kindergarten.”

He also noted that student enrollment was down overall, from just over 3,300 students a few years ago, to just over 2,900 this school year.

Reflecting that trend, there were 80 fewer Kindergarten students for fall 2017, as compared to the number of 2017 graduating seniors, Wilson said.

Two days after the work session, Summers reiterated that the position eliminations were “business ones.

“We have to operate like a business, or we will be out of business,” he said.

Summers explained that the state of Tennessee gives $7,000 for each student to local school systems.

“Then we have expenditures to cover, such as busses, electric bills and, of course, salaries.

“That is our biggest expense,” he continued. “Eighty percent of our budget goes to teacher salaries. So two positions [including salary and benefits] could cost [upwards of] $100,000.”

He said the issue would be further discussed at this week’s regular monthly Board meeting [held after press-time Tuesday evening].

“I asked that it be put on the agenda,” he said. “I know they are looking at the numbers to see what, if anything we can do.

“But I am just one voice, and one vote. It will be up to the other board members to decide.”