Danville superintendent hoping non-tenured teachers can be rehired

April 20, 2004|HERB BROCK

Earlier this month, Danville school Superintendent Bob Rowland sent letters to all non-tenured teachers in the city district notifying them that their contracts may not be renewed for next school year. Rowland hopes he can do what he has done over the past several years and send another set of letters telling the young teachers that they have been rehired.

But budget woes in Frankfort have both Rowland and the non-tenured teachers crossing their fingers harder than ever.

The General Assembly left the state capital last week without enacting a state budget. And the two budgets that lawmakers were considering carried mixed messages about teacher raises - including questions about whether the raise was 1.5 percent the first year of the biennium and 3.5 percent the next or, as required by state law, 5 percent a year and how much of the raises would be paid by the state and how much by local districts.


While Democratic leaders are calling for a special session to resolve the budget crisis, Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher is rejecting that plea and instead is trying to come up with an interim spending plan.

Former Gov. Paul Patton operated the state on such a plan when the legislature failed to pass a budget a couple of years ago.

"Like was the case two years ago (when the legislature failed to pass a budget), school districts and, more important, employees are left worrying about what is going to happen," Rowland said in an interview Monday.

Rowland and his counterparts in all other Kentucky school districts face three critical deadlines every March and April when planning budgets and staffing patterns for the coming school year. On March 1, all school councils are to be notified of their staff allocations. On April 30, all teachers who may not be rehired are to be notified. And on May 1, district budgets must be ready.

Meeting those deadlines has become a tricky business in the last few years with the continuing budget problems in Frankfort, Rowland said.

Regarding the March 1 deadline, Rowland and the Danville Board of Education developed a contingency plan under which 10 certified positions, including those of the district's five technology resource and curriculum teachers, would be eliminated if there aren't enough state funds to cover the positions. In the meantime, tenured personnel holding those positions would be moved to other jobs in the district.

Around 40 non-tenured teachers in the district

As far as the April 30 deadline is concerned, Rowland said all 40 or so non-tenured teachers in the district - there are a total of 150 certified personnel in the district - were told in letters sent to them two weeks ago that they may not have jobs in the district next school year.

Rowland noted, however, that the Danville superintendent has been following this practice for the last 10 years and eventually rehired the affected teachers; but he said the notification process has become more nerve-racking in recent years because of budgetary problems.

"This notification of non-tenured teachers is a routine practice for us," he said. "We do it as a practical matter because we aren't, in April, absolutely sure of what our budget will be, and so we want to give (non-tenured) teachers time to prepare for their future.

"But we stress in our notifications that we will renew their contracts if and when sufficient funds become available. In the past, those funds have become available and we have been able to renew those contracts."

Rowland hopes the annual non-renewal warnings will be followed by the annual renewal notices, but the budget flux in Frankfort makes guaranteeing a repeat of the pattern of the last decade impossible. That's why he's anxiously awaiting another important date on his calendar - April 29. That's when he and other superintendents are scheduled to attend a meeting in Frankfort hosted by state Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit.

"We're hoping that (by April 29) a budget of some kind will be in place and the commissioner will be able to tell us what it means for our districts," Rowland said. "I'm eager to see the situation resolved, and I know a lot of teachers are as well."

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