County Commissioners Leave Education Lacking

TONY STINNETT, Courier Co-Editor

Cannon County Director of Schools Barbara Parker and the Board of Education returned to a place they had preferred to avoid last week - the cutting block.

Following the Cannon County Commissioners’ meeting at the Courthouse Saturday (July 16), when a decision for the 2011-12 budget was tabled until their August meeting, the School Board continued a recessed meeting at the Central Office to determine where to go in terms of cuts and a budget for the upcoming school year.

Parker had asked for $79,808 from the commission's budget committee that would have been funded through four cents on the tax rate. The Board of Education had previously approved the 2011-12 general purpose school budget in June.

With the start of school scheduled for Aug. 5, the Board is forced to move forward its general budget and additional cuts.

"We had already cut this budget as lean as we could," Board Member Cathy Hyatt said. "We have done all we can do. I don't know what else we can do."

One means of solving the issue is to combine classes and share teachers at some schools, while making tough cuts at others.

Parker and principals at the seven county schools have worked tirelessly to come up with ideas to cut an additional $80,000 from a budget that was already strapped.

"I am looking for (the Board) to give me direction and to cut an additional $80,000 out of this budget if you are OK with what is being proposed," Parker told the Board.

Board member Shannon Davenport said the BOE feared such additional cuts. She made the motion to allow Parker to work with the principals and supervisors on the cuts. Board Chairman Randy Gannon seconded and the motion carried 4-0.

"We knew we would have to cut and that it would come down to personnel," Davenport said. "It frustrates me when I sit out there and beg for (County) Commissioners to come to the (Middle School) forums and listen to the public. I begged and pleaded and told people to call their commissioners and then I have a handful of people show up for the 20 cent tax increase proposal and there is a commissioner who sits over there and says they don't know what to do.”

"Had they attended forums, called and asked questions, they would have been given answers. If you won't pick up the phone and you are not listening to people then I don't know how you could vote for something. We are making tough decisions here."

The original system budget called for three cuts at CCHS. The new cuts would mean two additional positions could be cut, one from the high school. Schools also would be asked to combine certain classes and share teachers to avoid more substantial cuts in the elementary schools.

"East Side combined last year and Short Mountain is looking at combining classes this year," Parker said. "We are working to make sure one school will not suffer the entire brunt of these cuts each year. I am working closely with the principals and there will be no surprises."

Student registration for the 2011-12 school year is Aug. 4 and the first full day of classes is Aug. 5.