St. Helena schools prepare for 2013-14 funding uncertainties

The St. Helena Parish School Board on Thursday approved a reduction in force policy for 2013-14 in case declines in state funding and federal and local grants require the district to cut employees.

School officials are not certain that a reduction in force would be necessary, but must take appropriate steps now in case layoffs are required, Superintendent Kelli Joseph said.

“We don’t know what the extent of any funding cuts might be, but we are at the point now where we must start considering our staffing for next year,” she said.

If a reduction in force becomes necessary, layoff decisions will be based solely on demand, performance and effectiveness as dictated by state law, Personnel Director Patricia Morgan said.

Employees would be notified of their termination via certified mail, Morgan said.

The school district is facing the potential loss of state funding for numerous reasons including local contributions to the Recovery School District which runs the parish’s middle school, student participation in the voucher and course choice programs and proposed changes to the special education funding formula, Joseph said.

In addition, the district must implement the new state-mandated teacher and administrator evaluation models, curriculum changes and accountability measures, while continuing to improve its district and school performance scores to meet the moving target of the state’s grading scale, she said.

These are especially difficult tasks for a district that lacks control over its fifth- through eighth-grade classrooms due to the RSD’s involvement, she said.

Board member Scott Galmon agreed, saying, “The governor and others want the RSD to grow. Killing the image of public schools and making them look like failures drives the machine that creates a need for more RSD schools.

“We need to be very vocal, and everybody needs to spend some time fighting this in Baton Rouge. We’ve got to fight Bobby Jindal.”