Quick decisions needed on rehiring teachers

news_education_greenBy Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Superintendents and local school boards across the state were learning late Wednesday that they will have to decide almost immediately whether they want to rehire teachers for the 2014-15 school year.

They originally thought they had until May 1 to provide nonrenewal notices to teachers they did not want to or could not afford to re-employ for the upcoming school year.

“It was just a lot of miscommunication all the way around,” said Sam Bounds, executive director of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents.

Under state law, the deadline to send out nonrenewal notices to teachers is determined by when the governor signs the education funding bill. Districts have until April 15 or 10 days after the governor signs the education funding bill into law – whichever is longer.

According to Bounds and Pete Smith, a spokesman for the Department of Education, the education funding bill was filed in the House clerk’s office on Monday – meaning they originally thought that the districts had until May 1 to give teachers the notices. But apparently the bill was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant on April 15, but not filed in the House clerk’s office until Monday.

Smith and Bounds said the law is clear that the nonrenewal notice deadline is based on when the bill is signed by the governor, not when filed.

Bounds said earlier Wednesday he was in Tupelo and told area superintendents to remember the nonrenewal notices must be given by May 1.

“We’re sending out emails now telling them they only have only two days,” he said.

Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden, who had not received the email yet, said the change will not cause his district problems, but he expects it could cause woes for some districts where finances are tight.

Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said, “Right now we think we are going to be OK as far as re-employing and hiring everyone. We did like having a few days to run the numbers. But now we don’t have a lot of time.”

Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents Campaign, an education support group, said, many districts are just getting the information on how much money they will get from the funding bill and, now, will be forced to make immediate decisions.

“This is particularly disheartening when budgets are so tight due to dramatic underfunding by the Legislature,” she said.

Comments from Bryant’s office were not available late Wednesday.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com