Lee losing 22 teachers' assistants

Aug. 13, 2014 @ 04:58 AM

Members of the Lee County Board of Education expressed concern over the loss of 22 teaching assistant positions and the rapidly increasing population of the county's elementary schools during the board's meeting Tuesday evening.

In his report to the board, Superintendent Andy Bryan discussed budgetary changes, including cuts to teachers' assistants, transportation, central offices and at-risk students. He also informed the board that, starting next year, there would be no automatic funding increases to account for school population growth and no funding to drivers' education programs at the high school level.

"I think it's a shame we have lost some of these [teacher's assistant] positions," said Board Member Tamara Brogan. "To me, it's common sense. If you have another adult in that room with the children, of course it's going to help the quality of learning the children are getting. Of course having another person, another set of eyes, another set of hands, is going to help."

Bryan said no employees would be terminated due to the board keeping positions vacant as employees left or retired in preparation for the cuts.

"I can appreciate the fact we used attrition to take care of some of lost TA positions," Board Member John Bonardi Jr. said. "But what does that mean to us? ... Are we going to have TAs in kindergarten, first grade, second grade? Where's our cutoff?"

Bryan said there would be teachers' assistants in kindergarten and first grade, with a few assistants serving second-grade classrooms.

"I'm very disappointed this happened," Brogan said. "I agree very strongly that we need TAs in the classroom. I do think it will affect the students and the quality of education."

Bonardi said overcrowding in elementary schools would also need to be addressed to prevent a drop in the quality of education in Lee County classrooms, and that the board had no idea when construction of a new elementary school might begin.

"If we broke ground today on a new elementary school," Bonardi said, "you're probably looking at two years. Not knowing when we may be given the 'go ahead' for funding, I think we need to be making preparations for handling students at these schools."

Bonardi said, given space limits, it would be unlikely that the board would be able to add more mobile units to existing elementary campuses, and that one new elementary school would be the bare minimum given a projected elementary population growth of 2 percent a year.

During its meeting, the board also:

* Approved applications for Title IA and Title IIA funding for additional teachers, tutors, supplies and professional development.

* Approved the sale of the LCS carpentry project house to Andrew Kelly for $71,000.

* Recognized Lee County teachers Eilem Arellano, Debra Bullard, Mark Hildreth and Stephanie Needham for their involvement in the Governor's Teacher Network.

* Recognized the LCS Finance Department for receiving awards from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, the Association of School Business Officials International and the N.C. State Board of Education.