State cuts force 18 out of work

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GATESVILLE – Despite having to notify 18 individuals that their jobs are in jeopardy due to state budget cuts, Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Zenobia Smallwood remains upbeat that some of those jobs may be saved.

On Thursday of last week, 18 employees of the local school system were notified that their contracts would not be renewed for the 2009-10 academic year.

“We’re still waiting for the state budget to be finalized before we know exactly of the personnel we can employ for the next school year,” Dr. Smallwood said. “The House of Representatives have completed their part of the (state) budget. Now it goes to the (state) Senate for their approval.”

By state law (Statute #115C-325), public school systems throughout North Carolina are required to notify personnel by June 15 in regards to their employment status for the next school year.

“Without the knowledge of our state funding at this time, our only course of action we had was to use what state allotments we have at this point,” Dr. Smallwood noted. “We couldn’t offer contracts to these 18 individuals because we didn’t have the money. We can’t spend money we do not have.”

The Superintendent called the ordeal “heart-wrenching.”

“There’s no fun in this…these people you know, people you see in church or the grocery store,” she said. “Raleigh doesn’t see the people, they just see positions.”

Dr. Smallwood continued, “Even though we have followed the state law in regards to notifying these 18 individuals of their employment status, we’re hopeful that the money will be included in the state budget that will allow us to retain many of these affected employees. These individuals are members of our family and we want as many family members as possible to come back home.”

In the same breath, Dr. Smallwood said she would understand if those notified of their pending job loss found it necessary to pursue another job.

“First and foremost we want them back with us, but I don’t expect them to wait on us…I’ll understand if they choose to look somewhere else,” she said. I don’t want them to miss out on any opportunities.”

The 18 positions lost at this time are system-wide. Dr. Smallwood said the Exceptional Children Program, Career Technical Education and classroom teachers were affected.

“I can’t say exactly what positions will be saved without the state budget finalized, but I hope it’s as many as possible,” Dr. Smallwood noted.

When asked about specific classroom positions that were cut, most notably English teachers at Central Middle School, the Superintendent said the system must have those jobs filled.

“We will have the English positions back, we can’t operate without them…instruction in core courses comes first,” she closed.

Local citizens wanting to express their concerns about the state budget cuts in education can contact District 4 State Senator Ed Jones at 919-715-3032.