Norfolk public schools have been suffering for some time now, but recently there has been some action to mitigate the circumstances. The school system will reduce its staff by 108 employees, 63 being educators. Most of the cuts are being directed towards middle schools, high schools and central offices. Not only is the city cutting its staff, they are also undergoing its fifth consecutive year without an employee pay raise.
Norfolk city schools have faced some financial stresses over the last three years, including $60 million in shortages.
“The damages have been accumulating,” said school board chairman Kirk Houston. “We have been cut to the bone. And when you are unable to stop the bleeding, the cuts just get closer and closer to the classroom.”
When calculating its reduction, Norfolk began seeing its decline in the 2008-2009 school years. As of now, over 600 full-time positions are being cut, which means a 14.5 percent decrease in the workforce. With this coming school year [2013-2014] the budget has already been set for about $296 million, with $180 million of that budget coming from the state.
Already, the problem approaching is that the school system will spend close to $314 million for the school year, falling short of $18.7 million. However, with all of the budget cuts, a new proposed package would not cut the specialty student programs, including full-day pre-K or transportation, mainly because they have received strong support from residents at a recent budget hearing.
Chief Financial Officer Michael Thornton met with the school board and superintendent Samuel King to discuss a plan that could be made to the prospective budget last week. The plan is to make tough but necessary decisions and discussions to turn around the ailing school system.
Houston said, “Immediate progress was needed in the division, which has 14 schools falling below accreditation levels,” which makes Norfolk in the top percentile for the worst performing schools in the state of Virginia.
At its monthly meeting, King presented a $300 million plan to be in place for the upcoming school year. This projection plans to cut close to 100 full-time positions but also increases employees’ salary by 2 percent, as well as expands funding for Advanced Placement testing and alternative education. “I am confident that this proposed operating budget is student-focused and provides a solid foundation for the future,” he said. “If you fight for us, Norfolk will stand with you.”
Not only does the threat of job cuts affect educators and employees already in place, it also affects future educators. Many education majors at Old Dominion worry that when they graduate and look for teaching jobs not just in Norfolk but cities elsewhere, they will come up short.
“It’s very disheartening to know that I may not be able to find work once graduation approaches. My main goal for the past four years has been to help children and it’s sad there’s a possibility I won’t be doing that,” said Elaine Krass, a special education senior at ODU.
However, this problem doesn’t seem to discourage other students like freshman Ashley Greene. “I’m not too worry about the job cuts, mainly because I’m sure as the economy grows so will the needs for teaching professionals,” she said.
By: Rae Parker