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Board rehire of teachers nears completion

By By Connie Nowlin
Managing Editor
Before the end of the last school year, Escambia County Board of Education voted not to renew some teachers' jobs. It was not a move the board wanted to make, but the state intended to change the grade divisor used in the formula to determine the number of students per teacher. The new divisor would have increased the number of students per teacher and reduced the number of teachers in the school system.
The teacher positions were eliminated at schools that had more teachers than units allocated.
But a new directive arrived recently, telling the board to use the same formula as it did last year.
That was good news for teachers, since it meant that most of the ones let go could be rehired.
"These were teachers that got a pink slip at the end of the year ," said Superintendent Melvin 'Buck' Powell.
"We rehired most of them, but there are three or four positions to fill."
Powell said some funding for class size reduction came in from Title 2 programs and the school system was waiting to see if those dollars were coming in before filling an additional two or three positions.
Foundation allocations from the state, though, had not increased to match the number of teachers in the system. Those allocations, said Julie Madden, chief school finance officer for Escambia County, were set for the lower number of teachers created by the formula used in May, rather than the one that has been reinstated from 2002.
The difference is 15.1 teacher units.
"But the legislature must provide the funds for those units," she said. "This is not tied to the referendum."
That referendum is the new proposed state budget going to a September vote. And while the board has backed the proposed budget, it will have no bearing on the rehires.
"If it fails, the legislature is still obligated for those 15 units," Madden said. There is no way to know, she added, when the money from the state will arrive.
"Without (passage of) the referendum, our fund balance is not such that we could float that many units (until the dollars arrive)."
Budgets for school systems are usually due to the state by Aug. 15. But with the proposed changes in the way the state does business, this year is different.
Instead, there will be public hearings held in September and the budgets for the systems are due to the state by mid-October.
That move was made, Madden said, so that the systems would not face the burden of creating two budgets, the first taking in to consideration the constraints applicable now, and the second one based on the passage or failure of the proposed state budget process.