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HCPS trims 13 jobs

WINTON – In a word, Diego Hasty was stunned, and he wasn’t alone in his feelings.

On Monday, the Hertford County Board of Education, facing the financial strain of state budget shortfalls, enacted its Reduction in Force policy, a move that eliminates 13 positions within the local school district.

Among the casualties was Hasty, Hertford County High School’s head varsity football coach for the past two seasons. His football coaching position was not eliminated, rather his job as a Physical Education teacher.

“I was totally caught off guard by this,” said Hasty as he stood in a Central Office hallway prior to Monday’s business portion of the school board meeting. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll put out some feelers to see if anyone needs a coach…I’m not ready to retire from coaching just yet.”

“Retire” is a key word within the Reduction in Force policy.

Hasty, who retired from the Northampton County Public School system before taking the job at HCHS, said that perhaps helped shape the board’s decision.

“I know a lot of people within my profession that do that…retire from one (school) system and go to work for another,” Hasty noted.

That point was alluded to by HCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Basham. He said state educational administrators urged local school administrators to look at “returning retirees” still working within the system.

“They traditionally have the highest paying jobs due to their years of work in the field of education,” Dr. Basham said.

Other than Hasty, the “retiree” reduction list also affects Linda Cumbo. Her category of employment – that of a First Grade teacher at Bearfield Primary School – was not renewed.

Of the 13 total eliminated positions, five are at Hertford County High School (two English instructors, one Social Studies teacher, a Science teacher and Hasty’s P.E. position). Ahoskie Elementary is losing two Fourth Grade teachers; Riverview Elementary will see two of its Teacher Assistant positions eliminated; the C.S. Brown Student Development Center will be minus a Science teacher once the 2009-10 school year begins; and three Instructional Specialists – two at the Central Office and one at Hertford County Middle School – are part of the force reduction.

Two of the Instruction Specialists, one at the Central Office and the other at the middle school, will respectively be transferred to teaching positions at Ahoskie Elementary and Bearfield Primary.

The impact of Reduction in Force was somewhat lessened with the previously announced retirements of three instructors – Sallie Barnes at Riverview Elementary, Sandra Fennell at HCHS and James Shook at C.S. Brown. Another, HCHS English teacher Nathaniel Glosson, is relocating.

“This reduction in force is an accumulative effect based on a number of things,” Hertford County Board of Education Chairman Ronald Baker said. “We face cuts in state funding; an increase in class size which leads to fewer teachers needed and the contributions made for our health insurance have increased.”

Baker called the process, “unavoidable.”

“We do not have taxing power,” he noted. “We can only allocate the funds we receive from other sources.”

He continued, “What we have done was done in a way that will have the least possible impact in the classroom.”

“It’s tough…it’s heartbreaking,” added board member J. Wendell Hall, “but we’re not the only ones going through this.”

“I just hope we don’t have to do this again next year,” Baker stressed.

Later in the meeting, Dr. Basham said he has been questioned on why didn’t the school system shift the money (nearly $2 million) that will soon be spent on construction projects at two HCPS facilities and use it for salaries in order to save jobs.

“Let me make this very clear, construction money is just for that…construction,” Dr. Basham said. “It’s a different pot of money.”

In other action undertaken by the board in regards to employment:

Approved a four-year contact for Bearfield Primary School Principal Julie Shields (board member David Shields, the principal’s husband, abstained from voting);

Approved one-year contracts for a trio of Central Office administrators – Betty Pugh (Executive Director of Human Resources), Frances Peele (Director of Student Services) and Helen Eure (Director of Child Nutrition);

Okayed the transfer of Ninth Grade Success Academy Assistant Principal Keisha Peele to a similar position at Hertford County High School; and

Approved Nicole Baker as Principal at the Early College High School.