Blount County Schools rehires 16 teaching assistants
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County Schools has rehired 16 teaching assistants who were recently laid off.
School officials eliminated 84 positions as a result of the Blount County Board of Education’s approval of an $81 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14. They cut 52 part-time regular education teaching assistant positions, three full-time maintenance positions, two full-time regular education teaching assistant positions, two full-time custodian positions and one full-time Central Office position.
Blount County Schools initially estimated 29 layoffs: 28 part-time teaching assistants and one school psychologist. Several teaching assistants resigned following the school board’s July 23 decision, reducing the total number of layoffs.
School officials ultimately laid off 22 teaching assistants and one school psychologist. They later rehired 16 teaching assistants.
Blount County Schools released their names Monday, responding to an open records request by The Daily Times. The district has rehired:
• Sandra Betts as a Heritage High School teaching assistant;
• April Carter as a Rockford Elementary School teaching assistant;
• Sabrina Chambers as a Carpenters Middle School teaching assistant;
• Brittany Crabtree as a Heritage Middle School teaching assistant;
• Jessica Davis as a Carpenters Middle School teaching assistant;
• Julie Elliott as a Heritage Middle School teaching assistant;
• Aimee Green as a Lanier Elementary School teaching assistant;
• Pamela Haralson as a William Blount High School teaching assistant;
• Leah Kane as an Eagleton Middle School teaching assistant;
• Leah McCammon as a Union Grove Middle School teaching assistant;
• Kathryn Morgan as a Mary Blount Elementary School teaching assistant;
• Jill Pugh as a Union Grove Middle School teaching assistant;
• Danna Renfro as a Rockford Elementary School teaching assistant;
• Veronica Tullock as a Prospect Elementary School teaching assistant;
• Cheryl Varitek as a Rockford Elementary School teaching assistant;
• C. Alane Wyss as a Walland Elementary School teaching assistant.
Eleven employees — Betts, Carter, Elliott, Green, Haralson, Kane, McCammon, Morgan, Renfro, Tullock, Varitek, and Wyss — are reporting back to their same schools, said Assistant Director of Schools David Murrell.
Employees were rehired into federally funded positions — either special education or Title I — that were vacated after the fiscal 2013-14 budget was approved.
Six employees — Debbie Archdale, Christina Everett, Jessica Fernandez, Ashley Goodson, Joseph Owens and Jamie Salley — declined employment at one or more schools, Murrell said.
In fiscal year 2012-13, Blount County Schools employed 303 teaching assistants who were funded out of three cost centers: the General Fund, special education and Title I. Special education and Title I are federal budgets.
The school district previously funded 137 teaching assistants out of the General Fund. After the school board’s budget cuts, the district is funding 85 teaching assistants out of the General Fund.
In the past three weeks, 14 teaching assistants have resigned, Murrell said. Four full-time teaching assistant positions were divided into eight part-time positions, bringing the total to 22 vacant positions.
“As other teaching assistants resigned throughout the system, we were able to find jobs for them,” he said. “So, we were able to rehire them much quicker than I thought we would.”
School officials have started to hire employees outside the re-employment list, Murrell said.
During the school board’s June 23 meeting, board member Jim Compton noted that an indeterminate of teaching assistants resign each year. He made a motion to reduce the unemployment benefits line item from $170,000 to $100,000 and move $70,000 to the teaching assistant line item.
Compton’s motion would have funded 16 teaching assistants through the winter break. School officials, including fiscal administrator Troy Logan, were apprehensive about the motion.
Blount County Schools received a number of resignations from teaching assistants in 2011 and 2012, Logan said. He advised that 45 teaching assistants resigned between July 2012 and August 2012 and 25 teaching assistants resigned between July 2011 and August 2011.
However, Logan didn’t feel comfortable budgeting funds based upon recent historical trends. Board members later sided with the fiscal administrator, approving the budget in a 6-1 vote and laying off 23 employees.
David White, a systemwide psychologist, wasn’t offered re-employment, Murrell said. School board members eliminated the certified position.
The district has re-assigned its seven school psychologists based upon school enrollment and student caseload, said Amanda Vance, special education supervisor. “After evaluating our numbers, we’ve rebalanced our staff. They’re picking up the slack. Since our numbers haven’t decreased, we’re balancing at a loss.”
Employees will serve a different number of sites based upon student numbers, she said. Some employees might serve two schools while other employees serve four schools.