Citing declining enrollment, a system reorganization and net reductions in grant funding, the Person County Board of Education on Thursday approved the elimination of as many as 31 positions.
School system superintendent Rodney Peterson said the school system has lost about 1,000 students over the last 10 years.
In addition, the county has been required to pay approximately 20 percent of its state funding to charter schools who teach children from Person County.
Peterson said he does not expect all 31 positions will be lost because natural attrition from the workforce will allow the school system to make cuts in other places and save some of the jobs targeted for elimination.
School system leaders will propose a plan for which positions would be eliminated by the board’s June 6 meeting and the cuts would become effective at the start of the fiscal year, July 1.
The plan proposed by Peterson Thursday afternoon calls for the elimination of six elementary teaching positions, including five physical education teachers, two middle school science teachers, a middle school social studies position, a middle school music position and seven positions at the secondary level, including two English teachers, two social studies teachers, and one teaching position each in science and math.
The cuts, if enacted, would mean elementary school students would no longer take physical education classes five days a week. Instead, they would take the class one day each week.
The reduction in force would also include two assistant principal positions and one central office director.
Person County Schools currently employs 608 people. The job cuts mark a 5 percent reduction in the work force.
In addition, the school system would eliminate one teacher assistant position and eight custodial positions. Peterson said the school system could still maintain its buildings with a reduced custodial force.
Peterson has not yet made decisions on who would lose their job if all the cuts are made, but he said he wanted to be prepared to act quickly.
“If we have a situation where someone has done all that we’ve asked them to do and they are good at their job and they are just getting caught up in a reduction in force, we want them to be able to go out and look for another job right away,” Peterson said.
Reaching the decision to recommend job cuts, Peterson, told the school board, had been a difficult process. “It’s been a rough three weeks. I can say with great confidence that we have yelled at each other and we have walked out on each other. But at the end of the day, I think we’ve all agreed on this plan,” Peterson said.
He said the school system had overextended itself with previous staffing positions, including decisions to fund teacher assistants and custodians with funds designated for exceptional children’s programs.
“I don’t think this is a situation we’ve gotten ourselves into over time. I think the way we’ve been paying people has had an impact on us. I’m a big believer in pulling the Band Aid off all at once and backing up to punt,” Peterson said.
He told school board members that the decision to recommend eliminating the positions had nothing to do with the budget proposal presented to county commissioners earlier in the week.
“I’m very pleased with what (County Manager) Ms. Heidi (York) presented to commissioners. She and I have met about once a month and I’ve gotten a good idea of what she’s facing and I’ve had the chance to explain what our needs are. I hope county commissioners will adopt what she’s proposing for schools,” Peterson said.
The worst part of any decision to eliminate positions will be sharing those decisions with school employees.
“The worst thing in the world is, if there’s not enough attrition, and we have to go to someone and say ‘thank you for picking up and moving to Roxboro and moving everything in your life, but, I’m sorry that we don’t have a position for you any more,’” Peterson said.