Fayette County Schools Cuts 11 Positions

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(Somerville, TN) The Fayette County School Board cut 11 positions Thursday night, in efforts to make up a $600,000 shortfall for the current school year.

Those 11 positions include: two P.E. teachers, one music teacher, one art teacher, one interventionist, one math teacher, one assistant payroll clerk, one bookkeeper, one secretary, one special education teacher and one ACT math teacher.

James Teague, the director of Fayette County Schools, was instructed by the board to present a list of positions to cut. The board instructed him not to ask the Fayette County Commission, nor use the fund balance.

Teague told the board he had created about $225,000 in savings in things like travel and textbooks, so the deficit now stands at about $300,000.

If the 11 positions stay eliminated for the coming school year, “That'll be a $500,000 savings. That'll fix our budget crunch. For next year. If we get there,” Teague said.

Parents and teachers packed the Bill Kelley Criminal Justice Center in Somerville to figure out why the school system was in such serious trouble.

Many heard about a state audit showing major misuse of funds in the 2011-2012 school year under different leadership.

But they still lack trust in the current officials.

“I believe some of it is being misused now,” said Gerrick Beasley, whose son is in third grade.

Michelle Zumbehl, whose child is in kindergarten, could never make school board meetings before. But Thursday, she felt it was important enough to get a babysitter.

“Six weeks until the end of school, and they're telling us we're having to do layoffs right now. Why are they doing this now? Why didn't they do this when they found the missing money?”

Teague said that he told the board about the serious financial issues in February. The board already cut nine teachers in the fall, and 10 positions in March.

One board member asked why only one of the 11 positions recommended to be cut Thursday was from the central office.

Teague said that he followed standard procedure and sought counsel from staff and principals on what would be least disruptive to students. He said this was the hardest thing he’s had to do.

When asked who to blame for the problems, Teague included himself. “You saw all the people at fault tonight. The director and all the board. There's enough blame to go around.”

In addition to cutting staff positions, board members changed the policy of their own pay, effectively cutting their monthly salary by about $6 per person.

The board also discussed having their policy committee look at alternative places to hold meetings. According to board policy, they must hold meetings at Fayette-Ware High School, but one board member said those meetings have become a “three-ring circus.”

Board Member Dana Pittman said she did not feel safe at those meetings and preferred to hold them at the justice complex, where there is a metal detector and sheriff’s deputies on duty.

One deputy had to issue a warning to the audience Thursday night, stopping them from outbursts and other loud noises.

Still, disagreement among board members often elicited laughter, applause, and shouts from the crowd, already frustrated with what they feel is lack of proper management.

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