Picayune School District prepared for cuts in short-term from state, federal sources

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2017

The possibility of future cuts coming to the education system was discussed during Tuesday’s Picayune School District Board of Trustees meeting.
While nothing is set in stone just yet, Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said the District is prepared for another budget cut from the state and federal levels.
The topic came up during Tuesday’s meeting. District Finance Director Lisa Persick said she expects an 8.7 percent reduction in Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding for the coming fiscal year, which provides most of the funding for special education, Harrell said. Director of Exceptional Education Diane Wise expressed concern about the status of the District’s special education program and what further cuts could mean to staff numbers after hearing that news.
In a phone interview conducted Wednesday, Harrell said there are two special education teachers in the preschool level, and six more in kindergarten through eighth grades.
By Friday, the District will know if cuts will also be made to federal funding, called Title 1 and Title 2 funding. That money pays the salaries of 15 paraprofessionals that assist the teachers in special education. However, there are several other paraprofessionals whose salaries are funded by the District directly.
If Title 2 is cut long-term, Harrell expects the District to have to consider cutting the number of teachers.
But if the cuts are made this year, Harrell said the District planned to carry 15 percent of the funding from this year to the next. If the cuts are long-term, then the problem would become larger, leading to staff cuts.
In other business, Board member Frank Feeley asked District administrators about the high level of travel and how much substitute teachers are paid.
Shaw said that some of the travel was due to an ongoing audit at the time, which prevented the use of new District-owned vehicles.
Feeley asked that a travel policy be drafted.
In relation to substitute teacher pay, Harrell said the District spent $500,000 to pay substitute teachers and at times it’s hard to find someone to substitute when a teacher is out. Harrell’s answer led Feeley to ask why teachers are not at work, and point out that maybe the District is paying substitutes too little for their time. No decision was made on either matter.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox