Notes from the Classroom: Union County Public Schools

When Gov. Bev Perdue, surrounded by her entourage of assistants, entered the media center at Weddington High School Monday, June 13, she was greeted with a standing ovation.

About 75 school superintendents, principals, teachers, teacher assistants, parents and community college representatives filled the chairs, while reporters and camera crews lined one side of the room.

Perdue had asked to meet with area superintendents and other educators to further gauge the effects of the looming deep budget cuts anticipated by the Senate and House’s approved budget plan.

Union County Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis, who had offered Perdue the uses of WHS as a central location for the meeting, was the first to address the governor. He voiced concerns over the proposed state budget if the legislators override her budget veto.

Davis said UCPS faces $11.5 million in discretionary cuts from the state alone if the proposed budget passes, on top of local and federal budget cuts. This equates to about 174 jobs that will be lost, he said. The cuts will increase another $2 million for the 2012-13 school year.

This can be mitigated somewhat this year, he said, by using federal dollars called EduJobs funds, but those are only available for one year. “I’m very concerned about any budget that going forward doesn’t have a plan,” he said. “This budget has no plan to fill the hole for the 2012-13 school year.”

Davis said he is also concerned about the loss of teacher assistants. “Those teacher assistants that could lose their jobs work directly with students. Teacher assistants are not just clerical assistants any more. They don’t just grade papers, do bulletin boards and monitor the hallway. They work closely with students with one-on-one instruction and in small groups.”

Sally Norris, president of the local chapter of the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants, spoke on behalf of her peers, saying they are partners in the classrooms, “co-teachers.”

“We have wonderful teachers who I’m sure could do their jobs without teacher assistants, but their days would be a lot longer, they would be frustrated a lot faster, and they would get burned out quickly,” Norris said. “Teachers have about 24 students in their classrooms. They can’t work with all those students every single day.”

South Piedmont Community College president John McKay spoke to Perdue about the loss of funding on the community college level. SPCC could lose $800,000 to $900,000 locally, he said.

“That’s at least six positions and two programs that we’re not going to be able to operate,” McKay said. “There may be more once we get into this budget and see how it’s going to impact us. We’re the place that can help students get the skills they need that don’t have a high school diploma, or that 34-year-old whose gotten laid off. So the 10.7 percent cut that we’re getting is going to impact all those people.”

Davis said following the meeting he felt it important that Perdue hear from area superintendents and other educators because this region of the state represents a large percentage of the students.

“They’ve allowed the one-cent sales tax to expire,” he said. “When you cut revenue and you cut expenditures, the bleeding has got to stop sometime. I hope cooler heads will prevail at some point and they’ll see that our school districts can’t continue to take the cuts of this magnitude.”

– This article was provided courtesy of the Communications Office of the Union County Public Schools.

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