Understandably, the news made many teachers uneasy about the future of their professions — since the Reduction in Force plan calls for lopping more than $7 million from the salary budget in the next school year.
The bulk of it, $4.1 million, will come from instruction and $1.2 million will come from school administration.
According to the RIF plan, the rest of the staff cuts include $700,989 in the pupil services sector, $494,876 in general administration, $298,511 in maintenance, $95,989 in transportation and $91,997 in business services.
Teachers declined to speak on the record about the RIF plan, stating that the atmosphere within the school system was too volatile right now to rock the boat. The Rome News-Tribune is breaking precedent to allow anonymity in order to share the concerns of so many local residents.
One woman who works at a Floyd County school did say that the RIF plan wasn’t completely unexpected.
She said she feels administrators’ hands are being forced — via years of state budget cuts — but they have the best interest of the system at heart and would do what they can to save as many jobs as possible.
A teacher agreed to an interview on the condition that an alias be used to identify him. “Peter,” 39, has been with the Floyd County system for three years and at another school system for a decade before that.
He said a lot of people expected furloughs and some layoffs, but didn’t think the RIF would be “as drastic as what they’re doing.”
“I’m a little nervous, but I understand why other people are more nervous,” Peter said. “I think, as a science and math teacher, I’m probably more secure. And if I do get let go, I feel readily able to get a job somewhere else. But it’s difficult to plan, and a lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck. If they don’t have a job, it could make things very difficult very quick.”
He said a positive note is that the layoff notifications come next week, rather than at the end of the school year.
“Tuesday, I can live with that,” he said. “Because it’s better to find out now than to wait until May and (hear) ‘You don’t have a job, find one for next year.’ That would be much worse.”
But Peter said he thinks the school system has known for some time there would have to be a reduction and Superintendent Jeff McDaniel was hired because of his reputation as a “clean-up man” administrator.
“I do think that the last superintendent (Lynn Plunkett) glossed that over a little bit and made things seem better than they were,” he said.
The new teachers, he said, are under the impression that they’re likely to be the ones laid off because they’re lower on the totem pole. And, along with the anxiety coursing through school corridors, is skepticism about how the RIF will be handled.
McDaniel released a lengthy plan, but Peter said it’s short on specifics — and personalization.
“Some people wish that it was handled in-house, within the schools, instead of handled from the central office down,” he said. “But I’m sure in some ways, the principals are glad they don’t have to make that decision.”
An RN-T.com report on the board’s announcement drew more than 100 comments from online posters — many of whom favored the impersonal process.
“I do feel that cronyism would come in to play if (the principals) did get to choose,” one wrote. “I also think that Dr. McDaniel is taking a lot of flack for something he didn’t cause.”
The comment continued with a call for action: “It is a terrible situation, and I’m one that could lose my job in this RIF. I strongly believe that citizens of Rome and Floyd County should contact our representatives and senators because they’re the ones that get the say-so in cutting funding.”
Peter said there are some scheduling adjustments to save money, and most employees probably realize there’s a need — and room — for a little workforce shrinkage.
“But slightly overstaffed is different from a third reduction in personnel,” he said.
He ticked off categories of employees who are likely the most worried about the coming RIF: teachers married to other teachers, which is not uncommon; staffers who are the sole breadwinner, and insurance-provider, for their families; and teachers in specialized areas.
“Technology classes, art classes, elective classes and paraprofessionals, those people see themselves as very vulnerable,” he said. “Theres a guy that’s been teaching more than 10 years, but, he teaches an elective class that’s likely to get cut and he’s just wondering if they’re going to move him into another area where he can teach or will his job be gone?”