Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Tight budgets have led the Macon County School system to drastically reduce staffing over the last five years. Schools across Macon County are operating with fewer staff today than in previous years and several are serving an increased number of students. From fewer teachers, custodians, and bus drivers, all departments within the school system are operating with fewer staff than in prior years and according to school system leaders, fewer staff than they should to be able to adequately serve students.

Union Academy lost about five positions last fiscal year due to budget cuts, and now teachers at the alternative school work all day without a planning period. At Franklin High School, fewer teachers mean fewer options for popular courses such as U.S Government, making it more difficult for students to find the courses they need and want to take in order to qualify for graduation. All schools in the district have turned their front desk receptionists into bookkeepers and data managers, consolidating positions through attrition to save funds for other needs in the district. The continued budget crunch has made it impossible for any additional cuts to be made without significant adverse implications on the learning environment, according to Baldwin.

Macon County principals submitted their personnel requests to the board of education last week with the hopes of returning staffing to average levels, not even adding new positions, just to retain positions that have since been lost.

At Franklin High School, Principal Barry Woody requested two teachers, an English and a social students teacher, which would cost the district around $99,000 a year. According to Woody, there have been 35 rising ninth graders identified as reading on a first to third grade level in desperate need of remedial education next year. For that to be possible, Woody needs an additional teacher. The need for a social studies teacher comes based on changes to graduation requirements and making sure Franklin High School offers enough social studies courses for students to be able to get the requirements mandated by the state.

Macon Middle School needs administration help to meet the growing number of students at the school. Macon Middle School Principal Scot Maslin asked for the school’ s assistant principal, Cody Bryson, to be shifted from a 10-month employee to a 12-month employee. The cost of the transition is $11,182.80 a year and would allow Bryson to work two additional months and through the summer for administration needs. Maslin also requested a new lead teacher position to help facilitate administration needs between staff and the principals.

Mountain View Intermediate Principal Kristen Lynch requested a physical education teacher to allow students to have extended, safer access to physical education through the school day. According to Lynch, the majority of injuries that occur at MVI are during PE class which can be attributed to limited staffing for 100 students at a time for the class. The cost would be an additional $49,542.02 a year for the district.

South Macon Elementary School requested an additional $2,927.62 to change their data manager from an 11-month position to a full 12-month position to help with the clerical needs of the school. The school also requested $32,771.09 to add a custodian to the school in anticipation of the $3 million expansion that will add six classrooms on to the school.

Diane Cotton, principal of Union Academy requested the addition of an English/social studies teacher, costing $49,542.02 due to losing similar positions last year. Cotton also requested personnel changes that wouldn’t need additional funding, but permission from the board to change the status of current employees.

The Macon County School System as a whole requested $46,247.13 to add one additional position on the district’s maintenance staff.

Another significant potential budget increase the district is bracing for is an increase in electric rates next year due to the 15 percent rate increase being explored by Duke Energy. If approved, Macon County Schools would need an additional $135,000 to fund the increase.