At Wednesday’s Chambers County Board meeting, the school board approved a recommendation for a proposed 2022 consent order to help the Chambers County School District achieve unit status.
“We finally came to a settlement agreement, and that’s the consent decree of 2022, the order that will now go to the judge, and the judge will have the opportunity to sign that consent order and put it in motion so that we can move on to the next steps of things that we have approved at other board meetings – our school closures, our school buildings and that kind of stuff,” said SDCC Superintendent Casey Chambley.
Law Insider, a resource center that helps lawyers and business owners create contracts, provides a definition of unit status. Basically, unitary status means that a school district has “abandoned the dual status of intentionally segregating students by race and has been brought into compliance with the commandment of the Equal Protection Clause.”
Unitary status means that a school district “has eliminated vestiges of previous segregation to the greatest extent possible with respect to legally enforced segregation, although it does not mean that, in effect, all schools in the district contain a racially diverse mix of students.”
In other business at the meeting, the board was greeted with a particularly long list of routine personnel changes to approve. Chambley said it was probably the longest the board has seen and attributed it to the school system consolidation plan, which is designed to help it achieve unitary status.
He explained how the Chambers County School District chose where to move employees and how it managed to retain employees as enrollment dwindled in recent years.
“As many of you know, we are going through a process of merging and closing some school buildings as part of our desegregation plan that we have been working on since 1970,” he said. “We have reached a settlement agreement, and because of this settlement agreement, we are closing several buildings and are going to be able to construct several buildings and merge a large part of our resources.”
Chambley said that during this process, for the past four weeks or so, the school board has been trying to determine where employees will fit into the consolidated school system.
He said the board had previously approved the closure of three schools.
“We know that LaFayette Lanier was a new closure that we didn’t know about until our trip to Washington,” he said. “And then JP Powell and Five Points were the other two. That being said, we had staff, both certified and teaching, that needed to be placed in certain locations in certain areas of the county. »
Chambley said the school board asked principals to send emails asking employees where they would like to go. Employees were allowed to have a first choice and a second choice.
“So, we took those and took that information, and we ordered a large magnetic whiteboard,” Chambley said. “It’s about four feet long and we put all the schools on top. And we have about 400 little magnets, the little two-by-two magnets, and we put each employee’s name on a magnet that has a certain color for a certain thing that they do and the certifications that they have, and we have started placing those under the schools. And we put everyone on the board where they were.
Chambley said that using the board, they moved magnets from schools that were closing to new possible locations. He said retirements and resignations have created many openings. The school board read where employees from closed schools wanted to be placed and reviewed those board schools to see if there were any openings.
“And most – I would say 90% of our employees got their first choice or their second choice,” Chambley said.
Chambley said moving the magnets was a complicated process.
“Now some of them picked a couple, and we went back and forth because they wanted to do a couple different things,” he said. “Some wanted to move to become a media specialist or something, so we had to start moving.”
Chambley said some magnets have been moved 20 or more times.
“It’s almost like a domino effect,” he says. “A movement would move something else. So if there was a person who accepted a position, and they left a school and moved…and we also let other people move and transfer who also wanted to move and be transferred to other positions.
Moving a person to a new place would leave a free space that another person could say they wanted.
“And so, we’ve been running, all of us, everyone in the office, in every department has been running for the last two weeks talking to people on the phone, getting Google to meet with managers, talking to managers. .. Every morning everyone gathers around the big whiteboard and starts moving and changing places,” Chambley said.
Chambley said the school board now has a plan for where employees will go. He said the school system is now trying to match staff with earned units from the school system.
“Now that’s where it’s important for us,” he said. “Most people don’t really understand how Teacher Units are earned through the Foundation program. We make our money in Alabama through the Education Trust Fund. And the Education Trust Fund sends money to local systems to fund our teaching units. But they do it through a formula. And that formula is given to you through dividers, and it all depends on what they call your ADM, which is your average daily membership. So basically the more students you have in your building, the more students you have in your school, the more staff they give you.
When a school loses pupils, it loses funded teacher units, he said. If a school wants to keep these units, it must find a way to pay for them through local taxes, which come from the CCSD’s general fund. Doing that is expensive, Chambley said.
Chambley said 80% or more of a typical school system’s budget comes from the education trust fund.
“And that comes from their employee salaries and benefits,” he said.
Over the past two years, CCSD has experienced a decline in enrolments.
“For example, for fiscal year 2020, our ADM in Chambers County was 3,422.10 [enrollment] …,” Chambley said. “This year our enrollment was 3,160. Our teaching units in FY 2020 that we earned to get paid was 197.51. This year, fiscal year 2023, is 182.46. Thus, over the last three or four years, we have lost more than 15 teaching units.
Chambley said CCSD hasn’t had to shed teachers as a result of the drop.
“…COVID year happened, and everybody went home and lost their registration, and the next year they just funded everybody,” he said. “The following year they passed what they called the Stabilization Act in which they said, ‘Keep everyone, and we’ll send you money for them too.’ This year, they have not stabilized. So if you lost the registration, you could not stabilize. Luckily for us, through these mergers, our retirements and attrition, we were able to put just about everyone we needed in place without having to fire any of our teachers, even if we lose and lost those funding units.
Chambley said the new employee placements have given CCSD the opportunity to use its buildings more efficiently.
“For example, our Fairfax school will no longer have to share a media specialist, it won’t have to share a counselor, it will gain a vice principal, so these things are going to make this building better and run more efficiently until that that we can get a new building built for these schools,” he said.
Chambley said 75 to 80 percent of Alabama school districts have seen enrollment decline since the pandemic.
“If we had to try to maintain 11 campuses with all the employees we had with the losses, we probably would have had to let go. [of] about 18 to 20 people,” he said. “And it wouldn’t have been good for our communities, our schools or our employees.”