To stop rumors and speculation about teacher layoffs, the Richmond County Board of Education is requiring a representative from each school to attend all committee meetings until the budget process is complete.
Recently, some teachers have received false information from colleagues about how looming cuts to the state prekindergarten program will affect their jobs if teachers are transferred to different grades, according to board members.
"One principal told a teacher they didn't have a spot for them in a different grade," board member Jimmy Atkins said at the April 12 committee meeting. "The message needs to get out to the principals ... they need to be advised that board policy will be followed here, and it's not the policy of what the individual principals want to do."
The board adopted the rule Tuesday at its monthly meeting after Vice President Venus Cain proposed the idea last week. The decision comes as the state prepares to announce final adjustments to the pre-K program cuts, including which counties will have to eliminate programs.
Because of funding shortfalls for the lottery-supported program, pre-K teachers statewide face a 10 percent pay cut, a school year with 20 fewer days and a $30,000 salary limit for new hires.
With these changes, district officials expect some pre-K teachers to want to transfer to higher grades. How many positions will be open for transfers is unclear.
In a countywide survey conducted earlier this month, 31 teachers said they would like to remain in pre-K, 22 said they would like to transfer and eight planned to retire or resign this year.
No final decisions have been made for Richmond County regarding these changes, but rumors continue to circulate.
In the past, the board required all principals to attend meetings so their faculty could be properly informed on all issues, but the rule loosened over the years.
"We did have an agreement that all the principals used to have to come," Atkins said Tuesday. "Then we made an agreement that a representative from each school level ... report back to the others at each committee meeting. I don't think that's been happening. In fact, I know it's not."
In previous pre-K cut discussions, some elementary school representatives left immediately after the items were completed, while others did not attend at all.
Cain said she suggested enforcing the rule last week because she does not want teachers to panic about false information.
Terrace Manor Elementary School Principal Hartley Gibbons said he supports the requirement so all schools stay informed and have a voice.
"It's important in voicing opinions and being able to answer any board member questions they may have," Gibbons said.