Bibb Schools Budget Cuts Threaten Progress at Rutland Middle

7:13 AM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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by Katelyn Heck, 13WMAZ.com

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

- Some Rutland teachers already lead five classes, instead of just four, but they say it's been worth it.

- One teacher said 16 percent of her students exceeded expectations on this year's CRCT.

- Bibb school budget cuts could threaten Rutland progress by increasing class sizes and reducing the number of teachers.


When the Bibb County school district tacked on an extra 30 minutes of learning a day for the 2012-2013 school year, some used it as an enrichment period for students. Rutland Middle Principal Richard Key had a different idea.

"We had 25 minutes we had already assigned to an advisement period where kids were working with teachers and going there every day, but that 25 minutes wasn't as well-used as I felt it could have been. Adding that 25 minutes to the extra 30 minutes a day gave just enough time for an extra class period," explains Key.

That created time for career development, remedial, and gifted classes. Though some core teachers now teach five class periods instead of four, some teachers say it's worth the extra workload.

"Last year we had to see them every other day, and they did not make significant gains, because it was half the time. Having the extra period, I see them every day for 50 to 60 minutes, and I've actually had 16 percent of my students exceed expectations on the CRCT this year," says Natalie Puckett, a reading teacher at Rutland.

As the Bibb school board continues to battle an $18 million budget deficit, the district has recommended job cuts and increased class sizes as part of the solution. They are using a 27.55 district-wide average class size as a guide.

But Key says, "You're looking at my class sizes being 25, 26 pretty much throughout the school. They're that low because I have an extra period in the day. If I lose more teachers, I wont be able to provide that same level of service. I may have to go back to reducing that period in the day, which would inherently increase class sizes for me because of not having the same number of teachers teaching each period. If that's not factored in to raising class sizes, then my class sizes could be higher than others."

Key says he's still trying to keep his programs in place but continued budget talks by the school board may change that.

Tuesday night, the board approved a reduction in force plan, leaving eight people without jobs. They voted on 24 and a half of the 97 proposed job cuts. Those were all certified positions, meaning teachers, vice principals, and counselors.

After saving nine counselor jobs, they cut 15 and a half total. The district tried to place some of those people in other positions, but eight of them did not qualify and were let go.

The school board has until the end of June to approve a budget, which could include 63 more job cuts for classified employees. That group includes people working at the Welcome Center, central office, media centers, and transportation department.

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