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Group says tenured teachers cut unfairly

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Schools Interim Superintendent Valya Lee began her tenure as the district's leader by looking into how teacher contracts were distributed under her predecessor's watch, School System Spokesman John Lyles said Thursday.

The school system issued contracts for the 2009-10 school year last week, but several tenured teachers did not receive contract offers, a move which led Clayton County Education Association President Sid Chapman to blame former Superintendent John Thompson, Monday, for what he termed a "debacle."

Thompson was fired Saturday by the school board, and Lee was named school chief until a permanent leader is hired. She put together a committee of human resources department officials to look into concerns over the issuance of contracts, Lyles said.

The committee is expected to report its findings to the school board Monday. The group is still gathering data, Lyles said, so he could not confirm the number of teachers who did not receive contracts.

"There is a possibility some people who did not receive contracts before, will receive their contracts after the committee makes its report," he said. "The superintendent wanted to ensure the right decisions were made concerning these contracts."

District officials said in February that tenured teachers - those who have been employed by the school system for at least four years - would be safe from any job cuts in the district.

The district is facing a $23 million drop in state funding, due to state austerity cuts and the loss of more than 3,000 students, who left the district in the wake of the school system's loss of accreditation.

Thompson and his staff, namely Chief Human Resources Officer Larry Conner and Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese, were proposing cuts by reducing the number of days in the work calendars for non-teaching staff, and by eliminating 150 teaching positions the district deemed as surplus. An additional 100 staff positions were also slated to experience the same fate.

Lyles said district leaders want to avoid letting go of too many teachers, as officials look beyond the school system's ongoing accreditation crisis. "Our goal is to retain as much of our staff as possible to provide a quality of services to the children," Lyles said.

Chapman said the committee has been in touch with the CCEA through Karen Jones, the Clayton County UniServ director for the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). GAE is the statewide parent group for CCEA, and both groups fall under the umbrella of the National Education Association.

Chapman said CCEA is collecting information from its members and other tenured instructors, who contacted his group. He said he is confident the committee will recommend that the board award contracts to those previously denied a job offer.

"At least there is a process going on, and they're being looked at," Chapman said. "I'm quite certain some of the decisions will be reversed."

School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson could not be reached for comment.