25 Oldham teachers to receive a pink slip

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By The Staff

 Private sector employees aren’t the only ones facing layoffs this year. Oldham County Schools officials plan to eliminate at least 25 teacher jobs for the 2009-10 school year.

Fifteen of those are teachers who principals decided not to rehire based on performance, about the same number as most years. But this year, schools won’t hire new teachers to fill the vacancies.  The remaining 10 or so positions belong to non-tenured teachers – with less than five years experience in Oldham County Schools – who are being cut because the district doesn’t have enough money in the budget.  It’s not because of anything they’ve done, Superintendent Paul Upchurch said.  “What’s sad is we’ve got some really good young teachers who will lose their jobs,” he said. Principals will choose which teachers to cut and notify them within the next couple weeks, Upchurch said.  One Oldham teacher confirmed Monday he’s already received notice from district officials that he’ll be without a job for the 2009-10 school year, but has been informed not to discuss it with the press. Upchurch said principals have decided not to cut literacy coaches — they have too much of an impact on every student throughout the school. School board officials are stretching the district’s budget for two reasons – one is a lack of county population growth. In the past, 300 or 400 new students flooded the Oldham County school system annually, but for the 2008-09 school year, the school system welcomed only 34 new students.  This year, the growth is projected to be flat. That means the district has about 12 teachers too many, creating a $600,000 strain on the district’s budget and causing them to delve into reserves. Another funding factor is less support from the state, Upchurch said – creating the need to eliminate jobs.  Kentucky Department of Education Communications Director Lisa Gross said the state budget is tight, and many school districts of various size and shape are in financial duress. “We all need more money,” she said. She said next year’s budget is still up in the air. Upchurch believes the amount of funding from the state to Oldham County could be cut by millions. The number of teachers educating Oldham County students could change if many families move to the area during the summer like in years past. If more students enroll than expected, schools will hire more teachers as needed, Upchurch said. Regardless of how many students are in school, there will be one more of them per every teacher. Instead of a 22-1 ratio of students to teachers district-wide, the new district ratio will be 23-1, Upchurch said. Oldham County’s ratio is higher than the state or national averages. Some parents are concerned about what that means for their children.  Maria Schilling, a mother of two elementary students and a soon-to-be kindergartner, said it’s bad enough the economy has affected  parents. Now, children are feeling the effects, and that is unacceptable, she said.  Her family moved to Oldham County for the schools. She thinks the teacher cuts will diminish the quality of education. “We’re going backwards instead of forwards,” she said.  Upchurch echoes the concern. Lower student-teacher ratios are ideal, he said. When finances are in better shape, he would like to reduce the student-teacher ratio again. One or two fewer teachers per school next year is the only option, Upchurch said. “We’ve got to make expenses balance revenue,” he said. And the largest expenses are payroll and buildings. State law has strict restrictions about what money goes into buildings and what into the general fund, with no way to divert funds from one to the other, Upchurch said, so that leaves cuts in staff. The decision doesn’t come lightly, he said. “It’s not just about dollars, it’s about people. We know that,” he said.   E-mail us about this story at: jfoster@oldhamera.com