MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery Public School System is bleeding. Like many other school systems in the state, Montgomery is facing severe budget cuts. Tuesday, school board members took drastic measures, voting to fire more than 600 employees.
"We are down to bare bones," said Superintendent Barbara Thompson.
Thompson emphasized this is the third year the governor has prorated the state education budget. That means the Montgomery's school system is facing a $28.5 million shortfall.
The school board voted not to renew the employment contracts of 612 non-tenured employees. 415 of those are teachers, 180 are support staff, and 17 are school-based administrators like librarians and counselors.
While the cuts are significant, Thompson points out they are not as severe as last year, when the system terminated 747 people.
And like last year, it's possible some staff members will be re-hired at a later date, although Thompson admitted there are no guarantees.
"Last year, we were able to bring back about 75%. But this year that might not be the case," she said.
"I am going to promise the teachers that we are going to do everything we can to bring as many teachers back as soon as possible," said school board member Mary Briers.
Superintendent Thompson is now urging state lawmakers to pass an education budget so local systems can plan ahead.
"The longer the legislature debates how much money we are going to get, the more opportunity it is for these people to be hired by another school system in another state," Thompson said.
Employees affected by Tuesday's vote will be notified via letters. The lay-offs will become official at the end of this school year.
And this is just the first phase of school system cuts. More are possible in the months ahead.
Board members have already said they are considering salary cuts at the central office, a change in the system's organizational structure, more aggressive energy conservation measures, and the consolidation of non-school buildings.