Newton-Conover schools cut 14 TAs

The Newton-Conover School System will cut 14 teacher assistant positions next year to compensate for funding being retracted by the state, school officials announced Monday.

NCCS Superintendent Barry Redmond said the school system must return about $852,000 in discretionary reversion funding to the state and cutting positions is one of the only ways to create that money.

“It’s like your daddy gives you $100 for the week, and then he says you have to give him $20 back,” Redmond said. “And then you get to decide where you want to make up that $20 from. It could be gas, food — it doesn’t matter.”

Out of the 14 TA positions cut, two were resignations, five were layoffs and seven were terminations. The cuts amount to about 20 percent of Newton-Conover’s TA population.

Redmond said after sustaining cuts the past two years, there are not many places to make up the discretionary return.

“It’s either TAs or teachers, and we felt like the greater need is to keep a decent ratio in classrooms as possible,” Redmond said. “We did not want to find the money for the return in teaching positions. We have tried to protect the classroom teacher, as well as teacher’s assistant, but we are to a point now where there is no other place to grab that cut.”

Redmond said an evaluation “rubric” was used to determine which TAs to cut. Using teacher evaluations, the top 35 percent of TAs in the system were held harmless. The system then looked at performance levels and evaluated each teacher’s track record.

“A large driver of determining whether they went on the termination list is if they had developed over years,” Redmond said. “We created an evaluation rubric and we tried to assess performance in regards to quantity and quality of work, and we did include in that attendance issues over time.”

Most of the TA positions were cut from Conover School, a special education center that serves about 140 students. Redmond said the cut TAs from Conover School will be filled with transfers from other elementary schools.

Conover School Principal Betsy Rosenbalm said she did have an opinion about the TA cuts, but did not want to comment on the issue.

Rosenbalm said an eight student to three teacher ratio is required by law in each classroom because Conover School’s students are “severe and profound.”

“They are losing some people, but our goal in every situation is to make sure we have the very best people hired to do their job,” Redmond said.

Two full-time Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher positions will also be eliminated next year. The positions are being eliminated because of low enrollment in the classes, which drives CTE courses, said Sylvia White, Newton-Conover City Schools’ personnel director. The money from the two CTE positions can go toward the discretionary reversion return, White said.

White added that federal funding currently assisting the school system will end next year— potentially causing more cuts.

“We are not through the bad storms. Next year, we will be back at this again,” Redmond said.

Redmond wanted to reiterate that the cuts are being made as a last resort.

“You can’t accomplish this with a little here and a little there,” Redmond said. “We take no pleasure in removing people from their jobs, its traumatic and our hearts go out to these people.”

Catawba County Schools are also working on potential staffing changes for next year, but Assistant Superintendant for Human Resources Pat Hensley said they are not making preemptive decisions.

“We are working on getting as much information as we can and then make the decisions we have to make,” Hensley said. “We want to make sure we have the numbers before the decision.”