Less than two weeks ago, when Gov. Nathan Deal announced proposed changes to the HOPE scholarship and cutbacks for Georgia’s pre-K programs, the Liberty County School System stepped up to work with local pre-K educators to ensure the impact on students would be minimal.
On Monday, Deal announced that an updated plan would allow pre-K hours to remain the same, while reducing the number of days students and staff attend school.
One day after Deal’s announcement, Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer announced Liberty County School System’s own cutbacks, which go into effect in August.
During the Tuesday’s regular BoE meeting, Scherer said the cutbacks were to include the loss of the pre-K center’s assistant principal, two resource coordinators and the reduction of paraprofessional days. A computer lab instructor also will be replaced by a paraprofessional to help eliminate costs. As a result of the changes, 48 students can be added to the program next year and students will be able to attend school for 177 days. The services and the number of classrooms are expected to remain the same.
“Pre-K’s a rapidly changing thing at this point. The governor did hear people talk and so yesterday he made the following changes in the pre-K program: He shortened it from 180 days to 160 days. Class sizes are increased to 22 students from 20 students. This will allow 2,000 additional pre-K students across the state to be served. He’s going to pay 94 percent of the operating funds for each classroom as opposed to 100 percent … and pre-K teachers will basically be funded at 90 percent of their salaries,” Scherer told about 25 pre-K staffers and others in the audience.
Although it hasn’t been easy to accept the changes, Liberty County Pre-K Center Principal Dr. Shelby Bush said staff members have taken the news in stride while remaining positive and staying focused on the overall wellbeing of the students.
“They looked at what a loss it would be to the students if their job was taken away,” Bush said of the center’s pre-K teachers. “There’s not one person on this campus who is more important than another … they work as a team for the children all day long.”
Bush said the Liberty County Board of Education also played a large role in ensuring that the minimal amount of cuts were made and pink slips given, considering the state of the economy and funding availability.
“I was just so thankful that our board validated this program,” Bush said. “We were really worried about our children (and how this would impact them) … we were not out here alone — they stayed on top of it from the beginning and our staff was very reassured.”
LCSS Assistant Superintendent Jason Rogers crunched the number to minimize layoffs. Rogers and Scherer worked with the pre-K staff and collected suggestions before analyzing how cuts could be made.
“I think our pre-K staff and pre-K administrators should be commended,” Rogers said. “Even when they were faced with possible substantial job cuts, they remained focused, and their No. 1 priority was maintaining the integrity of the program for the students that are currently being served as well as the ones that will be served in the future.”