Rapid Response Team In Place To Assist Employees - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Rowan-Salisbury Schools responds to job cuts story; pledges to help workers find jobs

Dr. Lynn Moody Dr. Lynn Moody
SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) -

Due to cuts in the Rowan-Salisbury School System's 2014-2015 operating budget, 46 employees are being notified that their position will be part of the district's Reduction In Force.

A total of 79 positions are being eliminated district wide, with 13 qualifying employees transferring into vacant positions and 20 positions eliminated through retirements, resignations and transfers. A "Rapid Response Team" has been created to begin immediately assisting employees. The district operates primarily on funds received through state and local allocations, with additional funds from the federal government and grants.

Board of Education Chair, Dr. Richard Miller stated that, "With an operating budget that is approximately 85% people, it is difficult, if not impossible, to account for a loss in funds without it resulting in a loss of people. Keeping students first will continue to be our priority, while being there for our employees when we are forced to make tough decisions. We have weathered many cuts to our budget through the years while protecting the classroom. With this budget, we experienced no loss of classroom teachers and we still retained 166 teacher assistants. We will continue to do all that we can to assist our employees impacted by these reductions."

The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved the process for staff to proceed forward in identifying employees impacted by implementing the district's Reduction In Force (RIF) policy at a called meeting on Friday morning, August 14. Rowan-Salisbury School System's Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody informed school board members that a "Rapid Response Team" is ready to begin assisting employees impacted by the RIF on Monday morning. This team consists of the Superintendent, HR Executive Director Kristi Rhone, HR staff, in addition to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Rowan County United Way, and the Employment Security Commission.

"Anytime we experience the loss of an employee, we experience the loss of a member of our family," states Dr. Moody. "We are in the people business from our students to our staff and when we have a loss – it hurts ‘all of us'." Since release of the approved state budget, Dr. Moody reported to the Board of Education that she has met with administrators, principals, legislators and the Rapid Response Team to determine the impact on district employees and on the assistance needed to help district employees.

Several years ago, the state granted districts the flexibility to transfer funds between teacher and teacher assistant budgets. At that time, many districts reduced the number of teacher assistants to avoid the loss of teachers; however, Rowan-Salisbury did not. Since 2011, the district has used fund balance (similar to a savings account) to retain positions.

Rowan-Salisbury's fund balance has reached the minimum threshold of below the 8% recommended by the LGC (Local Government Commission), which is equivalent to approximately one month's operating expenses. The fund balance also supports unexpected financial needs that may occur in areas such as transportation and utilities. (Note: operating expenses are different than capital expenses. School districts function on two budgets: Operating and Capital.

The Capital Budget funds building needs. The Operating Budget funds operations, including salaries. Funds cannot be transferred between the two budgets.) The district must prepare a balanced budget where expenditures do not exceed revenues.

The 79 positions eliminated that impact all areas across the district are as follows:

18 central office positions

15 school-based positions

46 teacher assistant positions

The 46 employees notified that the Reduction In Force impacts their position, includes 32 teacher assistants, 12 clerical and 2 certified positions across the district. These employees will remain on payroll for two weeks, until the end of the month, and will begin meeting with the Rapid Response Team (RRT) on Monday morning. Every effort will be made by the district to give the employees impacted by the RIF high consideration when job openings occur in the district. RCCC will assist employees through workshops, held at the RCCC campus, with resume writing, learning new skills, completing applications, preparing for job interviews and in other areas. Each agency involved will support employees through this transition.

The 22% reduction in state teacher assistant funding is equivalent to the loss of 46 teacher assistant positions, a $1.3 million decrease in funding for RSS. While the state budget gave a reduction in class size, resulting in additional funds of approximately $500 thousand to RSS and the flexibility to use these funds to offset teacher assistant reductions, the formula was based on beginning teacher pay and not on an average teacher pay. Therefore, the amount was not an equal amount of class-size reduction funding. In addition, other state budgets were reduced requiring the use of the new teaching funds in areas through the district's At-Risk budget that impact teaching positions, instructional programs, school resource officers, nurses and assistant principals of approximately $400 thousand. The result is that RSS is facing approximately $1.2 million reduction in operating funds.

Since the 2008-2009, Rowan-Salisbury Schools experienced cuts of approximately $30 million, including the loss of over 200 positions. Many positions that could have been eliminated in earlier budgets were retained through fund balance. The predicted "cliff" hit the Rowan-Salisbury Schools with the 2014-2015-budget year. The district must now proceed forward with producing a true balanced budget without the use of fund balance.

"I am very thankful for the tremendous amount of support through the hard work and extremely difficult decisions being made by our Board of Education and staff," says Dr. Moody. Our partners assisting us through the Rapid Response Team demonstrates the community support for our school family. I am in contact with our state legislators that are working to help us find solutions. This is a community crisis and we will all work together to assist where needed."

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