Southland School District expected to not renew some contracts

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

CARDWELL, MO (KAIT) – The Southland School Board is expected to approve a measure that would eliminate six teaching positions for the next school year. According to Superintendent Raymond Lasley, the school will not renew contracts for four elementary school teachers, an additional teacher and the elementary school principal. Lasley told Region 8 News Thursday budget cuts in the state's education department have forced the school to make difficult decisions.

"March is the month that we look at hiring teachers for next year. Tonight at the school board meeting, one of the things that we're going to look at is cutting the faculty, our teachers," said Lasley. "We're looking at reducing our faculty. We have 38 faculty members. We're going to cut it down by five."

Lasley said the district is facing a $100,000 shortfall for the upcoming school year because the state's funding formula, which is valued at $3-billion, is down two percent.

"I've got to make some cuts this year. Next year, they're looking at possibly no transportation at all, money. They've already cut it roughly in half," said Lasley. "We're about $3.6-million is our budget for a year. They're looking right now. They're telling us that we're going to, as far as funds going down, probably $100,000."

Missouri school districts are partially funded by state money. Lasley said Southland operates with $2-million in state money.

"In this current school year's budget, they had to use stimulus money in the formula, the basic formula that pays schools," said Lasley. "You're talking millions and millions and millions of dollars that they're going to have to come up with. I mean, they're not the federal government. They can't print money."

Lasley and the high school principal met and have made recommendations to the school board as to what contracts will not be renewed. The school board is expected to approve those decisions Thursday night.
"I have to go and notify each of those teachers with a letter that they have been non-renewed," said Lasley. "It's going to ruin their day. It's already ruined mine."

"I have to look out for the kids and do the least cutting to do the least hurting of kids, but also maintain this school district," said Lasley, who is retiring after the school year.

Lasley said he's talked to state legislators about the Missouri state budget.

"Their budget director knows that the state of Missouri is not taking in the money that they need to fund all the programs that are in the budget and education is a big part of the budget," said Lasley.

School officials throughout southeast Missouri have expressed sadness for the education industry. Lasley said, despite a program to offer computers to under-achieving students, the school will suffer next year on standardized testing.
'We have employed extra teachers over the years to reduce our class sizes, so now when we could afford to have small classes, we had small classes," said Lasley. "I don't see any way that you could move from 14 children to a class to 28 children to a class and it not impact that child's education."

"They're not going to get as high a quality education next year that they're receiving this year, even though they're going to have a high quality teacher in that room, she's going to be worked a lot harder," said Lasley. "Each child is going to get much less attention and that individual attention, the relationship between a teacher and a student, that's what makes it."

Mysti Mullen, a parent of two, told Region 8 News she fears how her youngest child will be taught. He said the district provides one-on-one attention this year, but it may not be able to offer the same service next year.

"My youngest one, he has to have some extra help in reading and with the cuts, I think it's going to be harder for him to get the one-on-one time that he needs," said Mullen. "They said they had to make some cuts in the school and I have a lot of friends that work there."

"His teachers give him extra-curricular activities so that he will be challenged and with more kids in the class, I'm not sure that he would get that," said Mullen.

"I fear that the educational quality is going to go down, for the state of Missouri, not just Southland," said Lasley.

Lasley said he hopes the next superintendent will hire teachers back if funds become available.

"If we can still hire this teacher and they haven't found a job. We know how they work. We know them and let's put them back in the classroom and we can reduce some of those class sizes," said Lasley.

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