NCSS develops RIF procedures

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System is likely to be forced to implement a Reduction In Force if certain budget cuts are put into place for next school year.

The Newton County Board of Education is deciding between several options in order to cut $9 million from the budget for the 2011-12 school year, and many of the options include a reduction in staff.

Items involving staff include:

* Implementing a three-tier student transportation system for $1,477,441 in savings, which the school board already approved at its Feb. 15 meeting. In addition to changing school start and end times, it is expected to reduce the number of bus drivers by 44 to save $792,000; reduce the need for all substitute bus drivers to save $180,000; reduce the need for one mechanic to save about $40,000; and reduce the need for 27 bus monitors to save $202,041, according to NCSS.

* Contracting with Ombudsman to provide a new model for alternative education in NCSS for $1,941,962 in savings. This would replace the current Sharp Alternative School program, which currently employs 17.5 classified staff, 30 certified staff and two resource officers.

* Changing high school scheduling from a block schedule to a seven-period day, including remediation or enrichment for students, for $2,820,000 in savings by reducing 47 teacher positions -- 18 at Alcovy High School, 12 at Eastside High School and 17 at Newton High School.

* Reorganizing and reducing maintenance and custodial staffs for $954,000 in savings.

* Eliminating 28 eight-hour-per-day regular education instructional paraprofessional positions at the elementary schools -- which would be two or three paraprofessionals per school -- for $582,400 in savings.

* Eliminating two assistant principal positions, one each at Newton and Alcovy High Schools, for $215,000 in savings and leaving each high school with four each.

* Reducing the number of school resource officers from 18 to 14, leaving three each at Alcovy and Newton High and two at Eastside for $171,428 in savings. Removing another from the Sharp program if the board approves the Ombudsman program would save an additional $42,857.

To properly handle this possible reduction in staff, NCSS updated its RIF procedures and presented them to school board members during a day-long planning session on Friday.

The procedure mirrors the one used last year when NCSS reduced several staff members and has been reviewed by an attorney, said Nyree Sanders, director of Human Resources at NCSS.

After certain staff groups are determined to be eliminated, the HR department first will determine if any job performance matters affect any of them. Throughout the year, staff are evaluated through several methods -- walk-through visits, formal teacher evaluations and a teacher effectiveness formula. Principals will be asked to turn in any staff names who have unfavorable evaluations or discipline problems from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.

Next, NCSS will look at certification when determining what certified teachers and paraprofessionals will need to be eliminated -- HR will determine which teachers are highly qualified and hold clear renewable teaching certificates.

Lastly, seniority in the school system will be factored in to determine what employees will be affected by the RIF.

Sanders said NCSS is tracking vacancies and using long-term substitutes or not filling them if they are not critical positions.

NCSS must issue teacher contracts no later than May 15, according to state regulations.

The school board members are expected to make many decisions regarding cuts at the March 8 work session, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington. The board also will meet for a regular session meeting at the same time and location on March 15.