By Gary Lloyd
HOMEWOOD — The Jefferson County Board of Education on Thursday approved a plan by Superintendent Craig Pouncey to reduce the system’s workforce to save $12.6 million per year.
Much of an hourlong discussion on the matter was heated. The approval passed on a 3-2 vote, with Board President Dean Taylor and Jacqueline Smith voting no.
The plan calls for many reductions in force and moving some employees from 12-month contracts to 10-month contracts.
Pouncey’s plan means a net loss of 162 jobs. Sixty-five new positions will consolidate some of the lost positions.
The plan, which was recommended in order to reduce expenses and create a balanced budget, includes:
- Consolidate JCCLC West into one site at JCCLC East for a cost savings of $272,314
- Declare a reduction in force of all general education instruction aides (24) for a cost savings of $772,939
- Reduce local teacher units by 70 for a cost savings of $4,781,169
- Reduce locally funded assistant principal units by 16 while shifting two units to allowable federal funding, resulting in a total reduction of 18 locally funded assistant principals, for a cost savings of $1,642,335
- Reduce various local school office staff (91) for a cost savings of $2,148,926. The school system will be creating 65 new 10-month office assistant positions.
- Reduce the contract lengths of 12-month career technical teachers to 10 months over the next two contract years for a cost savings of $91,052
- Reduce the contract lengths of 12-month assistant principals to 10 months over the next two contract years for a cost savings of $173,475
- Maximize efficiency of utilities for a cost savings of $1,119,900
- Reduce various central office positions (18) for a cost savings of $773,750
- Retain $1 million of Child Nutrition Program pass-through funds
All improvement efforts will be effective July 1.
“We have reached a point where inaction is going to take our system down lower,” said board member Oscar Mann. “I have a great heaviness on my heart for the employees who are going to be affected.”
Smith objected to many cuts, saying she would support cuts of $5 million to $6 million that don’t affect employees. She said the system does have two months’ worth of reserve money on hand.
“We are not in dire straits,” she said.
Board Vice President Jennifer Parsons said the board made a promise some years ago to keep a two-month operating reserve. She received 300 emails and was able to respond to half of them Wednesday night, she said. She said the goal is to protect the future of the system.
“It’s hard,” she said.
Taylor said he didn’t have enough information to vote on the plan.
“When we walk out of here in a minute, I’ve got to look at those workers, the students, I’ve got to look at our teachers and tell them what we did today,” Taylor said.
Pouncey said this was the “best recommendation” he could put before the board.
“That’s all I can do,” Pouncey said.
Sue Duke, an American Federation of Teachers member, spoke at the end of Thursday’s meeting through tears, saying she believed Jefferson County Schools employees didn’t know the “magnitude” of what was happening.
“I’m really concerned about our children,” she said. “It breaks my heart.”
Duke said the decision was made too quickly and that all parties needed to sit down and talk. She said she’d do anything to save employees’ jobs.
“They’re my people,” she said.
Read more about this in the April 1 issue of The Trussville Tribune.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.