Henry County school board votes to eliminate 10 local teacher units

By: Ryan Rodig Email
By: Ryan Rodig Email

Superintendent Dennie Coe painted a grim picture of Henry County Schools' financial outlook in a PowerPoint presentation Thursday night in Abbeville.

Coe says Fiscal Year 2010 will bring around $849,000 dollars in additional costs to the schools before the state budget cuts from proration are even factored in.

That's due to an increase in employee benefits, high minimum wage and utility costs, and a projected decrease of sales tax returns. The county is currently down 15% is sales tax returns this years, according to Coe.

A portion of sales and property tax goes to funding local school units, so Coe says the recession and increased costs forced action by the Board.

"To do away with local units for next year is a decision we have to make just so we can keep the doors of our schools open for next year," Superintendent Coe said Thursday. "That is not an easy decision to make, but it is one we have to make."

And the board agreed, voting unanimously Thursday to cut all ten locally funded teacher units.

Four units belong to Naval JROTC instructors from Abbeville and Headland High Schools.

Those who run the program say it would be a shame to eliminate something that provides valuable life lessons, and a great first step to scholarships and jobs.

"Studies have shown there is a lower drop-out rate for students who participate in it, and we do handle with a lot of at-risk students," says Major Danny Odom, Senior Naval Science Instructor at Headland High School. "Then you also have a higher graduation rate, higher rate of attendance at college, and you also have less disciplinary problems from kids involved in those programs."

Superintendent Coe and instructors are working with the State Department of Education to possibly include Naval JROTC with vocational technical programs in high schools. That could lead to it being fully funded by the state.

But for now it joins foreign language courses, driver's ed, and Pre-K as programs on the possible chopping block.

And, Superintendent Coe says there have been rumors of as high as 27% proration next year, which could make the financial situation even uglier.

"If those levels were to rise, it would certainly be devastating for public education all across the country," Coe said.

Along with eh 10 local teacher units Coe says they must also look into cutting two central office positions, restructuring their alternative school, and consolidating bus routes.

The board is hoping a stimulus package, and possible local retirement incentives can help save some jobs in the future.

**In a follow-up from a story News 4 brought you Thursday, the Henry County School Board voted in favor of implementing random drug testing to students in grades 7-12, who participate in extra-curricular activities. The testing will be funded entirely by grants.


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