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Teachers on the chopping block in West Point schools

 

Jason Browne

 

WEST POINT -- Approximately 20 certified teachers and 12 teacher assistants won''t be returning to West Point schools in August. 

 

The positions will be eliminated in the interest of shaving $2.3 million from the West Point School District''s budget next year, Superintendent Steve Montgomery said Monday. 

 

Several positions will be eliminated through attrition, but the majority of non-renewed teachers will be notified during the first week of May. 

 

All teacher assistants have received non-renewal notices and must reapply for their jobs. 

 

Principals at all West Point schools are performing teacher evaluations before recommending which teachers to cut. Performance-based factors such as student test scores and certification levels will be considered. 

 

Montgomery has already met with the entire district staff to warn them of the impending cuts. He anticipates a dip in performance will follow the cuts, but the cuts should spare the district from further layoffs in 2011-2012 when it will need to cut $3 million or more, he noted. 

 

"All school districts, because of state testing, No Child Left Behind and dropout prevention, hired extra teachers and assistants to help remedial students, pass tests and reduce dropouts. Now that they''re cutting our (state appropriations) budget, we''re going to lose those (teachers)," Montgomery said. "Higher accountability plus cutting the budget does not equal success." 

 

Another focus of the hiring increase, reducing class size, will also reverse. Classes of 15-17 students will grow by as many as 10 based on projections for next year, Montgomery explained. State law caps elementary class sizes at 27 students and middle school and high school classes at 30. 

 

WPSD currently employs 264 teachers and 72 teacher assistants with a 12-to-1 teacher-student ratio. 

 

Montgomery said the district has exhausted all other means of slashing its budget and must cut teachers.  

 

"We started out reducing services and line items, but 80 percent of our budget is salaries and benefits," he said. "I can assure you, I will not let this district get in financial shape where we have to borrow money to make payroll." 

 

Already, all district travel has been frozen, excluding field trips and student programs, and non-revenue athletic programs have been cut pending private sponsorship. Volleyball, golf, power-lifting, soccer, swimming and tennis will be suspended unless privately funded. 

 

The WPSD was forced to cut $2.1 million in state appropriations from its budget this year and has already lost teachers at all district schools.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment KJ commented at 4/20/2010 12:00:00 PM:

The way to solve this crisis, of course, is to cut taxes to generate more revenue. Ask haley Barber...he'll tell you.

 

Article Comment DB commented at 4/20/2010 12:21:00 PM:

Ahh, the John F. Kennedy solution. I guess if tax cuts worked for JFK and RWR (two of the greatest Presidents of modern times) then maybe they will work for Barbour and Obama. Of course you have to control spending on the other side of the ledger too.

 

Article Comment Sharp Nasal Kent commented at 4/20/2010 3:28:00 PM:

RWR had to roll back his tax cuts within a year or two because they were going to bankrupt the country. Just sayin

 

Article Comment JBW commented at 4/20/2010 3:44:00 PM:

The boys and girls of our district are our future and deserve the best. It is really sad that we are at this point. I am a former educator and this really saddens me to see this happen. Just when we think a solution has been found, teachers are being cut and we go back to larger classrooms. I understand that something has to happen but this is not the answer. I also feel for those who will receive pink slips on the first of May.

 

Article Comment Brother commented at 4/20/2010 4:09:00 PM:

When I was in school (70s) we had 30 or more students in every class with no assistant and I can promise you we had better results. The problem is not in the number of teachers.

 

Article Comment Brother commented at 4/20/2010 4:13:00 PM:

I will bet they will still run buses to pick up kids to give them free meals. This makes no sense. Most of these kids come from homes that already receive the amount of welfare the government thinks they should have then we add to that by feeding them again.

 

Article Comment School mom''s mom commented at 4/20/2010 4:16:00 PM:

A private school in WP cost around $2500-$3000 per year. I would be interested to know what it costs to educate a public school kid for one year.

 

Article Comment Puzzled commented at 4/20/2010 4:18:00 PM:

"The boys and girls of our district are our future and deserve the best. It is really sad that we are at this point. I am a former educator and this really saddens me to see this happen. Just when we think a solution has been found, teachers are being cut and we go back to larger classrooms. I understand that something has to happen but this is not the answer. I also feel for those who will receive pink slips on the first of May."

How do you state this is not the answer but you offer no alternatives?? I am starting to see what is wrong with the school system.

 

Article Comment DB commented at 4/20/2010 5:06:00 PM:

Kent we didn't get anywhere near bankrupt back then compared to where we are today. Bush2 and Obama1 have the deficit in a real tailspin. Carter's hyperinflation is going to look like peanuts before the latest clown gets out of office unless we put a big roadblock in Congress this November.

The US education system has a lot more problems than money, but the short term money problems are due to the state/federal economy. We need some proven JFK/Reagan methods applied to the economy. Cut taxes, slim down the bureaucrats, eliminate the freeloaders and put people back to work. Our current path is dead wrong. Why we ignore proven successful capital methods to stimulate growth and keep trying variations of socialism that have failed the world over for decades makes no sense.

 

Article Comment Sharp Nasal Kent commented at 4/20/2010 6:13:00 PM:

That's all fine and dandy DB, but it doesn't change the fact that RR had to roll back his tax cuts. As for deficits, I do believe that Mr. Reagan ran up some real doozies too - ones that Mr. Clinton had to save us from (even after the Bush 1 tax hikes).

Not that this has anything to do with West Point. I apologize for the diversion.

 

Article Comment Kent is a nut commented at 4/20/2010 8:19:00 PM:

Clinton wasn't half the president RR was. Go away Democrat !!

 

Article Comment local commented at 4/20/2010 9:59:00 PM:

I sure hope the people doing the evaluations for hire and not rehire don't play political favorites like the other city officials do. We need the best we can get for our children and not people who get to keep their jobs because of friends or political favors. We need to find a way to save our teachers. Save our children and their futures.
We as parents need to let them know we aren't going to stand for it.

 

Article Comment local commented at 4/20/2010 10:01:00 PM:

I sure hope the people doing the evaluations for hire and not rehire don't play political favorites like the other city officials do. We need the best we can get for our children and not people who get to keep their jobs because of friends or political favors. We need to find a way to save our teachers. Save our children and their futures.
We as parents need to let them know we aren't going to stand for it.

 

Article Comment DB commented at 4/20/2010 10:22:00 PM:

Well Kent you can "believe" what you want but the history is written so go compare the deficit as a percentage of GDP during Reagan's years to what it is today. As far as Clinton goes, I will certainly rate his fiscal policy above Carter, Bush2, or Barracko. I actually think he went too far on deregulation in some cases but I give him credit for limited welfare reform and controlling the budget deficit. He was a hell of a lot better President than this socialist we have now even if he couldn't keep his fly zipped.

 

Article Comment Thom Geiger commented at 4/21/2010 7:58:00 AM:

Quote @School mom''s mom;
"A private school in WP cost around $2500-$3000 per year. I would be interested to know what it costs to educate a public school kid for one year."

In Columbus, that would be right at $8,000 per year, per student. The yearly budget for the Columbus MSD, with federal educational funds included, amount to approximately $40 million per year. That doesn't include the $23 million bond issue for the new middle school (which was written to allow the CMSD to use any or all bond funds for other uses as they see fit).
Information on each public school district in Mississippi can be found on the Mississippi Department of Education, Office of Research and Statistics website at-

http://orsap.mde.k12.ms.us/MAARS/index.jsp

The Mississippi Report Card for 2008/2009 fact sheet, No Child Left Behind Act, DISTRICT: (1320) - West Point, can be seen at-

http://www.westpoint.k12.ms.us/files/NCLB%20Report%20Card%202008-2009.pdf

 

Article Comment ian commented at 4/21/2010 9:39:00 AM:

Clinton and the democratic congress were the primary reason for the housing collapse by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn't pay them. he also changed the way we look at unemployment figures to disguise the truth with lower figures.

The truth is that all presidents are liars. All politicians are thieves, and all political ideologues are idiots.

 

Article Comment enlightened commented at 4/21/2010 10:14:00 AM:

The primary problem with our public schools are with parents--teachers can't do everything, folks. Parents have to turn off the TV and xbox, take time out of their schedule and sit down and work with the child when they get home. I've seen this first hand in my extended family. The kid needs help and avoids the homework b/c 1) it's work and 2) he needs help. The parent neither wants to discipline the child nor wants to help( and in some subjects simply can't help)the child with homework.

The fact is kids need one on one time when they get home to help supplement what they covered at school that day. Until more parents take an interest in educating their children rather than expecting the government to so, the gap will widen between the educated and the non-educated.

Ian- I slightly disagree- Not all politicians are thieves and liars-- the problem is that there are so many who are that the good ones can't get anything done.

 

Article Comment local commented at 4/21/2010 12:18:00 PM:

re:enlightened...Are ther any that aren't thieves and liars in West Point? Or any that aren't corrupt?

 

Article Comment LT commented at 4/21/2010 12:36:00 PM:

I graduated from the WP School district over 20 years ago. I, (like Brother who commented above)remember having 30 kids per classroom. I also remember starting school in September and getting out at the end of May. Teachers had a handle on the classroom, and if they had a specific child they had a problem with they had no problem calling a parent. Part of the problem now is that teachers seem to base their teaching on being able to pass certain tests. When my child was at 5th Street, most classes ceased for at least one month prior to MCT tests so that the students could start MCT prep. If the teachers would go back to teaching what kids are required to learn, and making sure they "get it", there would be no need for extra MCT prep. Parents need to be involved in making sure their children are completing homework and classwork. And teachers need to remember that part of their job is to make sure parents are aware of what goes on in the classroom, whether the parent wants to hear it or not.

 

Article Comment teachersrgreat commented at 4/21/2010 1:03:00 PM:

LT: Why do you want to blame the teachers? The teachers sign a contract and have a boss and do what their boss instructs them to do as mandated by the Department of Education. You are just another parent trying to blame the teacher when the child doesn't get it or is unruly in the classroom. People, we teach what they tell us we have to teach and that's the bottom line. Blame yourself for not demanding that schools quit teaching to prep for tests and your child might get a better than average education. You are the one who votes to put the people in office who hire the administrators.

 

Article Comment George commented at 4/21/2010 1:52:00 PM:

"that schools quit teaching to prep for tests and your child might get a better than average education."

The tests were put in place to insure that a basic standard was met. Before testing it was not. The tests are a good thing. I know many teachers don't like them, but unfortunately they are necessary. They do establish a standard for an "average" education which is admittedly a low bar, but before testing there were many schools producing below average results.

That said, the most important component of a child's education is the parent involvement. They must monitor student and teacher and demand excellence from both.

 

Article Comment Times have changed commented at 4/21/2010 2:07:00 PM:

When I was a student 25 years ago, we certainly did not learn what the students of today are required to learn. Educational standards have changed and become more rigorous and faster-paced. How many of you remember learning to read in kindergarten? Today, students are expected to be reading at the end of kindergarten. I also don't remember learning physics concepts when I was in 4th grade, but those are part of the curriculum now.

Comparing schools today to schools the way they were when you were a kid just does not work. If you really want to know what schools are dealing with, please pick a few and visit them. Choose schools with different types of populations so you can really appreciate how each school has a unique situation to deal with.

The testing, as another poster said, is not the teacher's decision. Likewise, it is not the superintendent's, nor the state's. It was a federal law called No Child Left Behind, that was signed into law during G. W. Bush's administration. The intention was to hold schools accountable for teaching to a set standard and hopefully increase the abilities of students in the process. Unfortunately, the results have been less than stellar. There is tremendous pressure for students to perform well on the tests and that means there's a lot of "teaching the test" going on.

Students have *many* things vying for their attention. The number of single-parent households has increased drastically in 30 years. There has also been a gradual shift in cultural climate that devalues education. For example, a smart student is portrayed as a geek or a nerd. Speaking of smart students, the law that was supposed to help all students shifted the focus to the average or low students. Smart students seem to get "left behind" because "they will learn it anyway".

Please consider visiting a few schools and volunteering to work with students. If we had less finger pointing and more people stepping up to help, I think it would make a huge impact on our children.

 

Article Comment KJ commented at 4/21/2010 4:58:00 PM:

"How many of you remember learning to read in kindergarten?" I do, for one. I also remember correcting my 5th grade teacher about which element to which the "2" in H2O referred. That generated a phone call to my mother (who had a chemistry degree) and earned me an apology in class the next day. As phone calls to parents go, it was much better than the one in 3rd grade when, on her birthday, our teacher told us she was 39 and I piped up with, "gee, Mrs. Folse, you look more like 50." Sadly, she was indeed 50 and the next day's apology was mine, even if I didn't completely understand at the time why I had been impolite.

 

Article Comment SB commented at 4/21/2010 8:21:00 PM:

School administrtion pay roll should be cut. It's a sad day in society when we put the future of our kids and future doctors, scientists at risk to preserve a dollar. I know a few cuts that need to be made-the nutritionist salary is $80,000. Is it really necessary to be someone $80,000 to make menus and provide a healthy lunch? I mean lets be serious...

 

Article Comment Don''t Point Fingers commented at 4/22/2010 10:53:00 AM:

It's sad that 20+ teachers are about to lose their jobs! It's sad that they probably want find another job becuase of the finiancial strain a lot of school districts are having. Think about the students who are in college, pursing a degree in education to become a teacher and there probably want be a job for them when they graduate. It's even worse to know that some people are sitting back pointing fingers at the teachers and others, when they should be praying that something works out in their favor so they can hold their jobs. Mississippi is going to lose a lot of teachers, but look at California who cut 16,000 last year and looking at another 23,000 this year. So are teachers still at fault

 

Article Comment WP citizen commented at 4/27/2010 8:45:00 AM:

"When I was a student 25 years ago, we certainly did not learn what the students of today are required to learn. Educational standards have changed and become more rigorous and faster-paced. How many of you remember learning to read in kindergarten? Today, students are expected to be reading at the end of kindergarten. I also don't remember learning physics concepts when I was in 4th grade, but those are part of the curriculum now."

You are obviously out of touch. EMCC is full of kids that can't make a complete sentence. Today's standards have dropped from twenty years ago.

 

Article Comment Get the facts straight commented at 5/4/2010 2:30:00 PM:

On SB's committ, the nutritionist salary is incorrect! Before making this type of statement, one should have the facts straight. The child nutrition department is federally funded, therefore their money cannot be commingled with state funding to subsidize teacher pay. Also, if it were not for the child nutrition department, some students would go the entire day without a meal. I think some people do not realize how difficult this decision was to make. I am sure it was the last resort for that man to have to cut teachers.

 

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