Natchez-Adams School District not mass-cutting teachers

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, May 1, 2013

NATCHEZ — Rumors of a widespread firing of teachers in the Natchez-Adams School District are untrue, Superintendent Frederick Hill says.

But approximately 10 teachers have had their contracts non-renewed.

“We haven’t laid off one teacher, and I don’t think we’re worried about cutting teacher positions right now,” Hill said. “I don’t shy away from being open and honest about what moves we’re making in the district, so if they didn’t hear it from me it’s not happening.”

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As the district begins to prepare its budget for the next fiscal year, Hill said cutting teacher positions is on the bottom of the list.

“When we talk cuts, some people think teachers are the first things to go, but that’s not necessarily true,” Hill said. “I definitely don’t want to cut teachers on the front end, so we’re going to analyze everything in the budget first to figure out the expenses that are necessary to run the district and then look at everything else.”

Hill said approximately 10 teachers were told two weeks ago that their contracts had not been renewed, but that doesn’t mean those teachers won’t be returning next year.

Public school districts are required by law to notify teachers before April 15 about the status of their contracts. All public school teachers in the state are hired by an annual contract that expires each year.

The non-renewal notices are issued for a variety of reasons including teachers who haven’t renewed their certification, a lack of federal funding or poor job performance.

According to state law established in 2001, any employee who receives a non-renewal notice must, within 10 days, request in writing the specific reasons for the non-renewal. The employee can also request a hearing.

“Some of those with the non-renewals will be given a hearing, and the results of the hearing will determine if that teacher returns,” Hill said. “Those hearings are done with a hearing officer and that specific teacher.”

Hill said the district would wait until after the hearings, as well as the end of the school year, to begin determining which teacher positions would remain at certain schools.

“The enrollment dictates if those positions will be filled again and how many teachers we need every year,” Hill said. “Right now, we have a rough estimate of what we’ll need for next year, but that won’t be finalized until grades are ready in the last week of May.”

Hill said knowing how many students will move on to the next grade level plays a large role in determining how many teachers are needed per grade and school.

“We can’t assume that all students are going to be promoted to the next grade level, so we might project a higher number for a school or grade that ends up being lower,” Hill said. “What those numbers are going to tell is where we need to shift some teachers around to meet those enrollment numbers.”

A large shift in students and teachers is anticipated this fall when the former Robert Lewis Middle School is reopened as a magnet school with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math curriculum.

The school will house 125 sixth-grade students in its first year, with the eventual goal of adding additional grades each year.

“If we pull 125 students out of the sixth grade at Morgantown (Middle School), then we’re not going to need as many sixth-grade teachers there,” Hill said. “So teachers will be shifted to other schools where we might have higher numbers.”

The NASD Board of Trustees will meet at 4 p.m. today to discuss the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.