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Pre-K teachers will return to a full schedule
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Effingham County pre-kindergarten teachers will return to a 190-day calendar for the 2014-15 school year.

“They will work 190 days, just like all other teachers,” said Effingham County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

All Effingham County public school students, including pre-K, had 180 days of class this past year. However, pre-K teachers worked eight planning days, compared to 10 for their colleagues in other grades.

The pre-kindergarten program is funded by the state with proceeds from the Georgia Lottery. The Effingham County Board of Education has included local funding in its fiscal year 2015 budget to cover the cost of pre-K teachers’ two work days not paid for by the state.

“We’re making up the difference with local funds,” Shearouse said.

The Effingham County School System has 23 pre-K classrooms with 22 students per class, according to Shearouse. Approximately $90,000 in local funding will be allocated to pay pre-K teachers for two additional planning days and their step raises based on their experience.

“We feel like it was the right thing to do for our employees,” Shearouse said. “It took a while. We wanted to do it earlier, but we just didn’t have the funds. But now we felt like we had the funds and could afford to do it.”

Shearouse said pre-K teachers were “basically frozen where they were” since the state was not paying them for 190 work days or the step increases they were due. However, he hopes the funding bump will add incentive to teach pre-K.

“Some wanted to get out as soon as they could because they wanted to make more money, and you can’t blame them,” he said. “There are folks who really like teaching 4-year-olds and they want to stay there, so now they can stay there. They’ll get paid the same amount that a teacher in second grade would get paid, so we feel like there can be some consistency there.”

The local pre-K funding is included in the $88.9 million FY 15 budget tentatively approved by the board of education last month. The fiscal year begins July 1, and the school board is scheduled to give final budget approval at its meeting Thursday at 7 p.m.

One position cut
The school board’s FY 15 budget does not call for any locally-funded jobs to be cut.

The one position the board has approved eliminating is a Title I parent liaison who served Blandford and Guyton elementary schools.

Title I is a federally-funded program based on schools’ number of students on free and reduced lunch. Blandford and Guyton were two of six Title I schools in the district this past year.

Blandford does not rank as a Title I school for the 2014-15 school year, though, and therefore no longer will receive its portion of the funding toward the parent liaison position.

“Blandford lost their funding, so that was part of the reason (the position was cut),” Shearouse said. “Principals make some decisions locally on what they need based on class size and so forth, and Guyton, for example, would rather spend their money somewhere else besides having that parent liaison.”

The Blandford-Guyton parent liaison had a $35,780 salary plus approximately $13,000 in benefits, according to Shearouse. Money related to Title I is not included in the local budget since the program is federally funded.

“No one (in a locally-funded position) is losing their job,” Shearouse said.

Guyton Elementary will remain a Title I school for 2014-15 and “they will still receive services from a current parent liaison,” Shearouse said.

The former parent liaison for BES and GES will be offered another job within the school district, according to Shearouse, though it may not be the same type of position or the same pay.