Letter to the Editor: Let Me Clarify
School board trustee hopes to clear up the confusion from the school budget workshop.
After reading the stories of last week and all the terms and numbers that were thrown out in the school budget workshop, I’m sure you are as confused as I am. Let me clarify.
The TAP program was a teacher training program in nine schools. The program had 13.5 master teacher positions. (One position was half-time.) Master teachers are not classroom teachers who teach students in the classroom. Master teachers trained teachers. When the TAP program ends on June 30th, those 13.5 positions will be eliminated. No classroom teaching positions will be eliminated.
In fact, when it comes to classroom teaching positions, the initial budget proposal for next year adds 3 classroom teaching positions. We added 9 classroom teaching positions this year.
What will happen to the 13.5 employees who were in those master teaching positions? As this school year is winding down some of the district’s 1,150 classroom teachers are submitting retirement notices. Those 13.5 employees have been placed as classroom teachers for next year and have jumped into teaching slots being vacated by the retirees.
The district has 2,031 employees and more than one hundred programs. Sometimes a program is eliminated. It’s natural as the organization rolls and bends with changing needs and finances. Given the large number of retirements that occur each year, displaced employees most always find similar jobs elsewhere in this system just like this 13.5 master teachers did.
The main reason I voted to end the TAP program was financial. TAP is a state program and the funding the state gave us for the program phased out over five years. True, the state paid for it through this year, but next year the state funding for the program dropped by $275,000 so the school district had to dig up that money to keep the program going. The following year the state funding dropped even more so the district would have had to pitch in $800,000, the year after $1.3 million, and when the state funding disappeared the entire burden of the program — $2.2 million — would have fallen on the district’s lap.
The district’s finances are strained by rising medical and retirement costs. Next year we’ll add another 250,000 sqf of building space. We are scheduled to refresh $1 million worth of aging laptops that we don't have the money for. Teachers haven't been given pay raises in 2 or 3 years. Keeping TAP and adding its skyrocketing costs over time to an already stressed budget was financially unwise.
Alex Saitta, Pickens School Board Trustee