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As many as 32 teachers in Biloxi could lose their jobs because of decreased enrollment after Hurricane Katrina, district officials said Wednesday.
Superintendent Paul Tisdale said seven elementary teachers' contracts won't be renewed for the 2006-07 school year, and the district will have to cut between 16 and 25 special education employees.
"Enrollment has dropped since the storm, so it's difficult to justify keeping the same number of teachers on staff that we have now," he said.
School districts across the Coast are facing similar situations - hurricane-destroyed tax base, reduced local revenue, fewer students.
Before the storm, Biloxi's 10 schools had 6,125 students. As of Feb. 13, that number dropped to 4,435, and some elementary classes have fewer than 10 students.
Currently, the district has 171 elementary school teachers. Even if enrollment increases 20 percent by next fall, which officials are projecting, the schools would need only 154 teachers, or 17 less than there are now.
Tisdale said 10 teachers have said they will retire or resign at the end of this year, which means seven teachers will have to be cut.
The district hasn't filled any of the seven vacancies at its secondary schools and because of attrition, no jobs in those schools will be cut.
The district gets federal funding for its special education program, which is based on enrollment. The money is funneled to the state Department of Education, which uses a formula to dole the funds to school districts.
Depending on how the formula works out, the district will have
to cut between 12 and 20
special education teachers and four or five speech pathologists.
Tisdale held a meeting Tuesday with teachers who could be in danger of losing their jobs to let them know the situation.
"The idea is to let people know as soon as possible so they can look for jobs in other districts," he said. Contracts are due to teachers by April 15.
Teachers and other employees paid through federal Title I funds
may also be cut, Tisdale said. Title I funds are based on the number
of students in the free- and reduced-lunch programs, so if enrollment
is down overall, students in those programs may have
However, the district doesn't find out what it's Title I budget will be until the beginning of next school year, Tisdale said, so the district may have to make some projections on those numbers after a needs assessment is done at each school after Mardi Gras.
Tisdale expects local funding won't decrease dramatically since some of the casinos are open. Also, districts will be getting money from the federal government that they used to open schools after the storm, as well as money for housing displaced students.
The problem, he said, is that they don't know exactly how much money they will be receiving.
"We still have numbers to crunch," he said, "but
we have to get those numbers to crunch them."
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