Charleston County School Board clarifies potential teacher layoffs

CHARLESTON, SC – Tonight, frustrated parents and community members addressed the Charleston County School Board about misspending, and a $19 million budget shortfall, now resulting in larger class sizes throughout the district.

On March 14th, the board voted to eliminate 117 teaching positions.

Angry community members spoke their minds to the board Monday night.

National Vice President of Religious Affairs for the National Action Network, Rev. Nelson Rivers III, said $19 million is too large of a budget shortfall to be “playing dumb.”

“Somebody ought to be fired…they spent all this money and then sit here and look at everybody with a straight face, ‘I don’t know how that happened!’ You had to know how it happened! You sit here every week, every month! You had to know, but if you didn’t know you still should leave because if you didn’t know that’s worse than knowing!”

During public comment, one man asked, “What are we doing wrong? Where’s the accountability?”

Monday night the board didn’t vote to make any more budget cuts, but they wanted to explain; due to teacher turnover each year, the 117 teaching positions proposed for a cut, are likely to be through attrition.

Board Chair, Cindy Bohn Coats, told News 2, “I don’t think we are going to be cutting. We will be hiring teachers! We will have to hire more teachers next year. What we are saying is that we are increasing the class sizes by one student in the middle schools and the high schools and it will mean we need less teachers in those classes.” Coats continued, “As you heard Dr. Postlewait said today, we got to talk about removing people from the district offices.  It doesn’t mean that they’re going to be told they have no job; they will have opportunities to work in our schools. We have to focus on the schools and we know we need to improve our student achievement.”

Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait has proposed eliminating 80 to 100 positions at the district office. Postlewait said they need all CCSD staffers to be focusing on student and racial achievement gaps.

Postelwait explained, “I think any time when resources are scarce, we need to get really clear about the job we are trying to do.”

Board members say April and May will be big months for the district as they prepare for next year’s budget, which is due June 30th.

Coats said, “I cannot imagine a scenario in which a qualified good teacher who wants to be employed by CCSD is going to be asked not to do so. I cannot imagine a scenario where that would happen.”

State law requires teacher contracts to be issued by April 15th. Coats said those teachers’ contracts will go out as normal. Based on things like who retires; who quits; who gets pregnant; and whoever else says they won’t be coming back; they’ll then decide how many teachers they need to hire.

With the budget shortfall district officials are still considering closing smaller schools, cutting programs, and as a last resort, they could raise property taxes.

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