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Teacher positions eliminated

By By Robert Blankenship
Special to the Advance
The Escambia County Board of Education approved the dismissal of 23 positions due to continuing cuts in school funding by the state and the decrease of other local revenues.
Escambia County Superintendent Melvin "Buck" Powell recommended to the members of the school board a list of teachers and support staff who were to be dismissed during a meeting last week. The board approved the recommendation by a unanimous vote.
"This is the toughest thing I have to do," Powell said. "We don't want to cut teachers, but it is something we have to do at this time."
The names of the individuals who were on the list was not released, pending notification of those employees.
Powell said there may be an opportunity to rehire some of the teachers if other funds become available.
"Some could be reinstated with other funds or (through upcoming) retirements. Hopefully, some of them will be coming back," he said.
The superintendent said these would be the only cuts needed to meet the system's budget requirements.
Powell said that when he took the job as superintendent over two years ago, there were 38 teachers being paid out of local funds. That number dwindled to only 14 teachers last year. With state funding cuts and a drop-off in local sales tax and the oil and gas severance money, Powell said these cuts were a must.
"We've had all the funding problems and then the state changed the divisor for which we determine how many teachers the state will fund which cut our funding even more," he said.
Powell praised those teachers that were on the list to be dismissed.
"Some of these teachers have done an outstanding job for us," he said. "I hope that some funding will come through that will allow us to rehire them."
Also at the meeting, the school board approved the dismissal of Amy Manzer. Powell said the dismissal was due to a "justifiable decrease in teacher's positions." Manzer will be allowed to appear before the board on May 29 to answer the recommendation.
The board also approved several recommendations in regard to this summer's Jump Start and summer school programs.