EARLIER: Schools cut many staffers

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Non-tenured employees may reapply for openings

By Lisa King

Non-tenured employees of Shelby County schools received pink slips in their paychecks on Friday.

School officials said that it is not unusual for employees with limited, 1-year contracts received such notices, which are required by law to be sent out by May 15, but this year all employees without tenure in the school system received non-renewal letters.

An employee only can have tenure with five years or more time on the job.

James Morgan, co-president of the local Shelby County Education Association, who has also been teaching music and technology for 16 years at Heritage Elementary, said that pink-slipping new teachers without tenure is not something new.

"That is a common practice," he said. "I wouldn't say that it happens every year, but it is done often."

Superintendent James Neihof said in a prepared statement that this year, as in the past, all employees will be given the opportunity to reapply and that "the majority will more than likely be rehired, some perhaps later in the summer, though, once the budget is finalized."

He added that the non-tenure notices reflect the district's attempt to plan accordingly to meet budget cuts, which could face as much as an additional 8 percent from the state, based on reports of a special legislative session in June.

The local draft budget was approved in January, and the tentative budget is expected to be approved by the school board on May 28.

Neihof said he is confident the local budgetary plan is solid enough to allow most to be rehired since staffing allocations are in place to meet the projected student enrollment needs.

The spouse of an affected teacher contacted The Sentinel-News on Friday to protest how the school district had gone about this.

"Please understand that I dare not expose myself for fear of reprisal against my wife," the spouse said in seeking anonymity. "You don't treat employees this way and expect any sort of loyalty and dedication. Yes, hard decisions need to be made, and they aren't always popular, but you need to be able to be humane in the delivery of the message."

The spouse said the note accompanying the pink slip explained that employees of a certain class with four years or less of service will be terminated regardless of their qualifications, time on the job, or special training.

"Although it is true that they will be given an opportunity to reapply for any open positions, there are no guarantees, the stress on them and their families has been magnified by the methods employed by management and the lack of concern for those impacted by these decisions," the spouse said.