Originally created 02/10/02

Parents protest teacher cuts



More than 60 parents came to an informal meeting with Columbia County School Trustee Lee Muns on Saturday morning with a clear message: Keep our teachers.

Most of the parents at the meeting were from Euchee Creek and Evans elementary schools, where new elementary curriculum guidelines and methods for allocating enrichment teachers threaten to cut half-time teaching positions.

The cuts could be particularly devastating for Euchee Creek, which began an art program with a half-time teacher last year.

"We're not just losing a teacher, we're losing an entire program," said Karen Tankersley, a parent of a first-grader.

The county's Elementary Comprehensive Curriculum Review Committee has proposed elementary curriculum guidelines that increase the amount of time pupils spend studying core subjects such as English, math, science and social studies, and standardize the time of enrichment classes such as physical education, music and art.

Another part of that proposal is a funding formula for allocating enrichment teachers - roughly one for every eight classes. Following this formula would cut three enrichment positions from the school system.

Lori Scherer, who has two children at Euchee Creek and served on the equity committee, opened the program with a presentation about the committee's work. Cutting teachers was never discussed by the committee, she said.

"When the county office presented this to the board, there were all these staffing and funding issues, with our school losing a half a teacher in the deal," Ms. Scherer said. "We weren't given an opportunity to discuss this formula for implementation."

She said she would like to see each school begin with an allocation of two physical education teachers, an art teacher and a music teacher - adding four positions over eight schools, rather than taking three away.

"I think we (the committee) thought equity meant leveling the playing field. This is not a numbers game, these are our children, and we want them to have art," she said.

Other parents said they were alarmed to find that the guidelines would result in cutbacks.

Although he made the motion for tentative approval of the guidelines at the last board meeting, Mr. Muns said he would not give his approval at the Board meeting Tuesday.

"I'm with you for the full-time P.E., art and music teachers," Mr. Muns said. "It needs to be there. As far as I'm concerned, as one of five board members, it will be there."

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113 or melhall@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next: The board is expected to take up the proposed elementary curriculum guidelines at the meeting Tuesday. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Evans Government Complex.