Fort Mill Times

ILMS eliminates health teacher position

When Indian Land Middle School students return to classes in the fall, health teacher Leland Hughes won't be among the teachers who greet them.

Hughes' position, a part-time assignment teaching health, has been eliminated because of budget concerns, according to Lancaster County School District Superintendent Gene Moore.

Officials with the Lancaster County School District originally said that only retired teachers who are on an annual contract with the district and staff funded by expiring grants would be among those let go because of budget concerns, but Hughes also became a casualty of a funding shortfall, according to Moore.

The district will present a $76 million budget to the school board for approval at a Tuesday, June 16, meeting.

The budget includes $4.3 million in federal stimulus funds, but is still $614,737 less than the district's budget for the 2008-'09 school year.

Moore said Indian Land Principal David McDonald will continue to offer health education classes using other staff members at the school, most likely physical education teachers.

Hughes said he's angry about his position being eliminated, specifically because he said he was asked to either resign or be placed on a list of teachers whose contracts may not be renewed.

"That's a threat," Hughes said. "Not even veiled. That's a threat."

Hughes wrote the letter of resignation, he said, because he was worried that if his contract wasn't renewed by the Lancaster County School District he might have difficulty getting a job in another district.

Although Moore declined to talk about Hughes specifically - other than to acknowledge his position was eliminated - he said teachers are often given that option.

"What is typical a lot of times when we are dealing with nonrenewals [is] we give them the option to resign and if they choose not to resign and we terminate them, then they have to deal with that," Moore said.

Hughes does have the option to appeal to the school board, according to Don McCorkle, Indian Land's representative on the Lancaster County School Board.

"If he thinks something is wrong, he has a procedure to follow," McCorkle said. "Any and all teachers that believe that for some reason they have a legitimate complaint, they have every right to bring that issue to the school board. And he has not at this point."

Of even greater concern to Hughes than his job is his former students' health education. Hughes has a specialized certification in health education and he said a physical education instructor might not be as familiar with the health education curriculum.

"[The district is] letting it go and to a middle school child, this is the first exposure they've ever had [to health]," Hughes said.

"It's such an interesting course in the middle of puberty and they love it. Kids keep coming to me saying, 'Please don't leave. Can we write a letter asking them to let you stay?' But I say, 'Don't save Hughes, save health.'"