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Opp to lose 12 teachers

There may be 12 fewer faces at the faculty meetings next year in Opp, with proration forcing the school system to eliminate 12 teaching slots, according to superintendent Dr. Timothy Lull. He made the announcement at the Opp Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, but added that he was working with school principals and other administrators to eliminate the actual numbers of jobs lost as much as possible.

"Originally we told you we were going to have to cut out about seven teacher units," said Lull. "We thought it would be through attrition."

Lull added that five to six teachers had retired this school year, with another retirement notification and one resignation turned in at that meeting. But Lull went on to explain that the state said it would fund even fewer teachers, bringing the total of eliminations to 12.

"We will not be renewing some positions," he said. "But it will not be tenured teachers."

After briefly discussing the possibility of offering buyouts to some teachers, Lull explained a nine-phase plan to deal with the cuts, still trying to preserve the jobs he could and cutting overall costs within the system.

"We're dealing with two issues here," he said. "The elimination of 12 teachers and we have to cut $429,000 out of the budget."

According to Lull, the school system has managed about 75 percent of those budgetary cuts already.

The first phase of the plan Lull presented was retirement, and the second phase involving internal transfers, with teachers being moved to fill other slots that have to be filled to meet education requirements.

Phase three would involve cuts in instructional support positions and phase four would abolish certain maintenance and administrative positions,

Phase five would deal with instructional program changes such as moving athletic programs to the afternoon or Drivers Ed. classes to the summer sessions. Phase six would involve the non-renewal of emergency teacher hires and phase seven would involve non-renewals of tenured teachers,

Phase eight of the plan was a variation of the internal teacher reassignments, but phase nine, announcing federal positions, offered a more positive approach, possibly creating positions instead of eliminating them.

"We've got federal money that comes in every year," he said. He told the board that it would have to post the positions and could not hire directly from those already employed by the school system. The applicants would have to resign and apply after the job was posted.

"We can't transfer," said Lull. "That's called supplanting and it's illegal. It is possible for the people who are let go to be rehired for the next school year."

In light of the coming job eliminations, Lull broached the board's layoff policy, pointing out one aspect may also be illegal. According to the policy, probationary personnel are let go first, based on the level and type of certification they hold. This was not a problem, Lull said, but added that the problem arose in laying off tenured teachers.

According to the board's attorney, tenured teachers can be released when it is due to a reduced number of teaching positions, but the board's current policy of deciding between two equally qualified teachers by using seniority as a factor may not be legal. He said that he and Dr. Lull were looking into the matter.

No decisions were made at the meeting about which teachers would lose their jobs at the end of this year, although the board did move to executive session because of personnel and litigation matters. At the suggestion of board member Durwood Edgar, Lull promised to schedule an executive work session to explore the possibilities at a later date.