Four Liberty County Pre-K Center teachers on Wednesday taught their last pre-kindergarten classes, as they moved Thursday into vacant teaching positions at district elementary schools.
In a letter sent to parents of pre-K students, Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee wrote that “several factors” led to the decision to transfer the teachers and that “careful consideration has been given to these changes.”
“This all comes as a result of the excess spending, for lack of a better word, at the pre-K center,” Lee told the Courier.
As previously reported, Bright From the Start — Georgia’s state-funded agency that operates its pre-K program — does not allot for salaries of teachers with advanced degrees or more than five years of experience.
According to Lee, the four teachers being transferred make “way more” than what the state pays for a pre-K educator.
Lee said the decision to move the teachers in the midst of a school year — and in the middle of the week — was necessary not only to fill the elementary vacancies as quickly as possible, but also to ensure that the district retains highly qualified teachers.
“If we waited until the end of the year, these vacancies that we currently have that they are assuming, may be filled by other teachers,” she said. “That’s why I put the freeze on — so I could have somewhere to put these people. They’re good teachers, and we want to keep them in the district.”
Lee also said that she has been informed that three paraprofessionals currently working at the pre-K center already are certified, “so we’re going to be able to move them into some teaching slots.”
Allyson Smith and Brandi Flowers, parents of pre-K students whose teachers were transferred, said they are concerned that the transfer has to happen “in the middle of the school year,” Flowers said.
“At this stage, pre-K, we are building a foundation and building trust for our children and the school system,” she continued. “These teachers have worked so hard to get them where they are at, and still have more to teach them.”
Smith said she emailed Liberty County Board of Education member Carol Guyett, her district’s representative.
“(Guyett) was very nice and explained everything to the best of her abilities,” Smith said. “I understand, but at the same time, I feel it’s a disservice to our children at the pre-K center, because they’re stuck with the potential of having a different sub every day. There’s no continuity to the teaching, except her paraprofessional. And she’s great, but she’s only one person.”
Lee said that although the affected pre-K students “may have a sub for a minute or two until we can finish finalizing paperwork, it shouldn’t be that long” before permanent teachers are in place.
Lee also emphasized the need for the elementary students to get replacement teachers ahead of the year-end Georgia Milestones Assessment System testing.
She said that she understands parents’ concerns, but insisted she is acting in the best interest of the district.
“It’s not going to be a good time to move them — I don’t care when it is,” Lee said. “This is a win-win, because both settings are getting highly-qualified folks.”