Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill School District job cuts detailed

Fifty-eight Fort Mill School District positions were looked at. Thirty-nine employees were affected. Nine people lost their jobs.

More jobs were saved due to reassignments and some creativity by district officials, who found a way to pay for some positions that would otherwise have been cut. Some unfilled posts will remain that way.

That was the news more than 75 people heard Monday night during the Fort Mill School Board's monthly meeting. The district made the cuts to balance a proposed $69.6 million budget for 2009-2010.

"This whole process has been extremely painful and very frustrating," Superintendent Keith Callicutt said after the board meeting.

"The bottom line is we have now presented a budget that reduces 58 total positions within this district. We were able to work it down to where only nine have lost their jobs," he added. "That's where we are. That's painting the picture."

Less than 15 days ago, Callicutt warned that the Fort Mill School District was not immune to the impact of the economy and that cuts would be needed unless the district received an estimated $2.7 million in federal stimulus money that's available. However, despite the urging of educators and legislators, Gov. Mark Sanford has not requested the federal funds for South Carolina.

Among the nine district employees whose positions were cut are two middle school teachers who will be unemployed come July 1. Joining them will be three media assistants, said Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

Eleven unfilled vacancies are frozen. Included are five high school teachers; two special education teachers; a middle school guidance official and three three posts in department support, Lordo said.

Even with the looming cutbacks and unemployment, one teacher failed to find fault with the board's budget.

"They've done a very good job in trying to make the cuts that they felt needed to be made," Beth Brown, a third grade teacher at Fort Mill Elementary School, said. "They put a lot of time and effort into their decision."

The proposed budget means administrators face a four-day furlough. Brown will have to take a two-day furlough.

"I was expecting it to be more compared to what other [school] districts are having to do," Brown said.

The budget was bad news for the district's LEAP Ahead literacy program.

"LEAP Ahead is basically cutting their program in half," Lordo said. "They are reducing their program by three employees."

And the program's parent coordinator also faces a reduced contract, she said.

"Of course I'm devastated," LEAP Ahead Parent Coordinator Julie Durham said. "I just feel deep concern for the staff, but we all understand that everyone across the board is sacrificing."

That includes the school district's leader.

"I will not be accepting a 4 percent raise," Callicutt said during the meeting. "I also will be taking the same furlough."

Callicutt will also content with cuts in office supplies and his travel allowance, he said.

In an effort to save $56,280, district officials will freeze plans for a new payroll system, Lordo said.

School board member Michael Johnson, making a reference to those who will lose their jobs under the suggested budget, said he wants the board to share the pain.

"If nine employees aren't going to work this year, this board doesn't need to go to a single conference," he said. "I'd like to see a budget with zero travel."

Other board members, however, cautioned that the budget only earmarks $14,000 yearly for travel, not nearly enough to fund the nine positions. Still, making the cuts wasn't a welcomed task for board Chairwoman Jan Smiley.

"These are terrible decisions to have to make," she said after the meeting. "Over the next two weeks, there will be more dialogue between the administration and the [school] board. Hopefully, something will change at the state level."