Hamilton County: Nearly 30 assistant principals could be cut next year, school administrators say

Hamilton County: Nearly 30 assistant principals could be cut next year, school administrators say

January 28th, 2009 by Kelli Gauthier in Local Regional News

The Hamilton County Schools system could cut at least 28 assistant principal positions in order to balance next year's budget, officials said Tuesday.

The district is "overstaffed" in the position and has "63.5 assistant principals for which we do not receive funding," Superintendent Jim Scales wrote in a letter to administrators.

Hamilton County spends about $4.4 million every year paying for the 63.5 assistant principals not funded by the state. Additional assistant principals are paid for mostly with federal money, bringing the district's total to 95, said Chief Financial Officer Tommy Kranz.

If 28 assistant principal positions were cut, the district would save about $1.1 million, Mr. Kranz said. But the savings would put little dent in the $20.2 million projected deficit the school system now faces, he added.

"This is what I keep coming back to. There's no silver bullet," Mr. Kranz said.

Student enrollment now will determine the number of assistant principals each school can receive, Dr. Scales wrote in his memo.

Middle and high schools with up to 650 students will receive one assistant principal; schools with 651 to 1,150 students will get two; schools with an enrollment between 1,151 and 1,650 can hire three; and middle or high schools with more than 1,651 will receive four assistant principals.

The six highest-poverty elementary schools all will receive one assistant principal, Dr. Scales wrote, as will high-poverty schools that receive federal Title I funding and regular elementary schools with at least 600 students. Title I schools with fewer than 600 students are eligible for a part-time assistant principal.

Four pair of elementary schools now will share an assistant principal: Barger Academy and McBrien; Brown and Battle academies; Rivermont and Hixson; and Lakeside Academy and Harrison.

With two assistant principals but fewer than 600 students, Tyner Academy stands to lose an assistant principal, which has Principal Carol Goss worried.

Assistant Principals Julius Hargrove and Kenneth Wilhoite handle much of the school's discipline, keep up with textbook inventory, track parent volunteer hours, attend evening sporting events and conduct classroom observations, Ms. Goss said.

"Somebody's got to do the work, so we're all going to be doing more," she said.

Mr. Kranz said some of the system's assistant principals likely would be eligible for the recently approved buyout plan, so administrators wanted to spread the word about the cuts in case it might convince some assistant principals to take the retirement incentive.

After officials determine how many employees take advantage of the buyout, assistant principals will be placed in a "pool" from which principals can choose their assistants with the help of area superintendents and area directors.

Those not chosen will be returned to a teaching position in the district that matches their credentials, Dr. Scales said.

Mr. Wilhoite, who is in his fourth year as a Tyner assistant principal and his 28th in the Hamilton County Schools system, said he is concerned about the impending cuts.

"You might not be out a job, but if you lose a substantial amount of your salary ... I don't think anybody is really happy with it," he said.

More personnel cuts, school closures and changes in health care are being considered as administrators work to balance the budget, officials said.