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CHCCS Board of Education Forced to Postpone Budget Decisions

By Danny Hooley Posted July 16, 2014 at 11:24 pm

The Chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education says that finalizing a school budget is not on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting at Lincoln Center.

That’s because the Board of Education is still waiting for the N.C. General Assembly to come up its own budget.

Until recently, Board of Education Chair Jamezetta Bedford expected to go into Thursday night’s meeting ready to vote on a final school budget for 2014-15.

But without a state budget to go by, the school board can only wait, and hope that the Republican-controlled House and Senate in Raleigh can work out differences in time for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system to make the appropriate tough decisions.

The first day of school is August 25, and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system is effectively paralyzed when it comes to hiring. The situation has prevented CHCCS from offering new contracts to nearly 100 teacher assistants who are waiting to hear back from the school system about next year.

CHCCS has devised three layers of budget reductions, which, especially at the second and third tiers, anticipate worst-case scenarios for state education cuts.

“Tier one cuts have been implemented,” said Bedford. “So the different reductions – not doing the study for counseling, for example, reductions in the central office, the half-time gifted specialist positions – those have been effectively implemented.”

In the second tier, more gifted-specialist positions are eliminated, and some custodial staff would be shifted to contract work at lower pay. The third tier is especially painful, because it would mean the loss of teacher assistant jobs.

Countering what she called recent “misinformation” on the internet, Bedford wrote a column for the Chapel Hill News this week, in which she addressed some of the angry local reaction to the custodial plan, which would utilize workers who make about $2 less per hour than staff custodians.

Local bloggers and their commenters have expressed disappointment in CHCCS, suggesting the school system is targeting some of its lowest-paid employees.

“It’s not what we want to do,” said Bedford. “But when we’re trying to protect the classroom, it was the least of the evil things to do.”

And by protecting the classroom, Bedford said she means that school leaders are trying to protect teacher assistant jobs.

In her Chapel Hill News column, Bedford explained that the school system is considering the elimination of 15 part-time custodial positions, most of whom, according to Bedford, have full-time employment elsewhere.

The planned transition to contract services would save the school system $125,000 next year, said Beford, and $275,000 per year once the transition is complete.

One item on tonight’s meeting agenda is a discussion on whether to extend signing bonuses for certain new hires, at a time when it’s hard to attract and retain teachers because of low pay.

“We’ve had 10 resignations in science and math,” said Bedford. “Four in the past 24 hours. That was as of yesterday, at four o’clock.”

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education meeting takes place July 17at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Center, located at 750 South Merritt Mill Road in Chapel Hill.

Bedford said that a special meeting to finalize a budget will likely be scheduled for sometime before August 15.

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