Crenshaw County School System faces cutbacks

CRENSHAW COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Editors Note: 4th paragraph updated to show AYP for Luverne High School.

As a way for education leaders to brace for funding shortages next year, the Crenshaw County Board of Education unanimously approved a 13% cut in staffing.

Faced with a tough economy and dwindling finances, superintendent Randy Wilkes recommended the loss of 39 jobs--a hefty amount for the small school system.

"We told, especially our non-tenured staff, to be very careful--that we did not know where we were headed," Wilkes said.

The cuts come after checking the budget for next year.  Wilkes says enrollment is down 118 students system wide. Luverne High School didn't make AYP for the 2009-2010 school year. The results for AYP 2010-2011 are not yet available.

Also, stimulus and other funding runs out this year.  Wilkes says those are all factors that led to cutbacks.

"There is a small chance, by the end of the year, we may have to dip into the reserve, just to make it into October 1st, but right now, we're holding on pretty good," Wilkes explained.

As part of the plan, 20 teaching positions will be eliminated, through layoffs and attrition.  19 support jobs are also gone next year.

Fellow educators say it's tough to lose their co-workers.

"A lot of times, it's the ones that are just getting started. The problem with that is--a few years down the road, when they would be experienced and be the core of our teachers--they're not going to be around," said Jonny Mitchell, the boy's basketball coach at Brantley High School.

Meanwhile, residents pray for a brighter future for their school system.

"It hurts the people.  Parents and jobs, can't afford to pay bills and all. It's just a hurting situation, and I just wish there was something to be done about it," said Jane Ellison.

Superintendent Wilkes says the system also boasts some of the highest state transportation costs per student per day. Administrators have streamlined bus routes.

The system isn't borrowing money to pay off its debts, and educators say they're hoping to keep it that way.

Some of the system's lunchroom worker positions will also be cut because of lower enrollment numbers.

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