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Some art, music teachers receive assignment changes

By Staff | Jun 12, 2009

Some elementary art and music teachers were handed changes of assignment this week for the 2009-2010 school year.
Superintendent James Browder and the five members of the Lee County School Board have been discussing a number of reduction scenarios hinging on how much funding the school district receives this summer.
One option on the table is to reduce 50 percent of the district’s elementary art and music programs by laying off or reassigning teachers. Teachers and members of the community have feared that the arts will be completely eliminated and have addressed the board in public comment at more than one meeting.
Teachers in Lee County were handed their tentative assignments on Thursday and some art and music instructors were assigned another subject for next year.
“Fifty percent of elementary art and music has been restored. That was decided,” said Mark Castellano, president of the Teacher’s Association of Lee County. “By contract they (teachers) have to be given their tentative teaching assignments by the last day of the school year.”
While no concrete decisions have been made in respect to additional reductions, Castellano said those teachers slated not to teach art or music next year, due to the cuts already in place, would’ve been notified on Thursday.
“They might have gotten that by now,” he said.
Some educators in the district see the tentative schedules as an indication the final decision has been made about art and music, but district officials contend that no permanent decisions have been made.
District Chief Administrative Officer Michael McNerny said none of the schools in Lee County have received their allocations, although he did say that tentative projections have been made at each school.
“Right now there is nothing conclusive at this point,” said McNerny. “We are hoping to salvage all school-based programs and make reductions in areas that don’t directly impact schools.”
Superintendent James Brow-der is scheduled to present his proposed budget — as well as the district’s Plan B — at a June 16 meeting of the school board.
At this point, no cuts have been finalized, explained McNerny, but Browder’s new budget will reflect any new reductions in school funding. Estimates from the district’s budget department put the local shortfall between $25 million and $40 million.
The school board will also vote on new contracts for teachers and support personnel on June 16.
Teachers and support personnel ratified their new contracts Wednesday night. Some secondary teachers were upset that changes to schedules eliminated daily planning periods. Teachers in the district now instruct for eight periods spread out over two days.
District officials were also unable to inform teachers or support personnel if bonuses were available for next year. Whether these employees receive a 1 or 2 percent bonus is contingent on how much money is used to fill budget shortfalls.