Possible cuts in staff at Richmond Co. schools have teachers worried

By: Patrick Price Email
By: Patrick Price Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, June 28, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Stephanie Spencer is a teacher, but this summer, she's a student.

"I have to be proactive as well, and I am thinking about backup plans," she said.

This, after the Richmond County Board of Education warned it might have to cut teaching positions next year.

Leaders now say they won't have to, but Spencer is still nervous.

"One thing that you think goes with education is job security," she said.

But after two years in the classroom, she's not feeling so secure.

"I want to see opportunities for those who want to be here, to have a place to still be here in the county," Spencer explained.

As a music teacher, she's worried she'll be the next one on the chopping block.

"Fine arts are the first thing to get cut, there's already not a lot of art in the county anymore," she said.

And there doesn't seem to be as many future teachers, either.

"The fact that there's kind of a strain on the district budgets right now has somewhat limited the availability of teaching positions," said Wayne Lord, the interim dean at GRU Augusta's College of Education.

He says less teaching positions in Richmond County means less students at GRU Augusta.

Numbers show graduation rates of students in the education track at the university dropped.

In spring 2011, 461 students graduated with a degree in education. In spring 2012, that number dropped to 382 students. This spring, there were only 337 graduates in the program.

"We've seen some decline in enrollment in our teacher program, preparation programs and also some decline in our graduate program," Lord said.

He describes the ups and downs as a cycle where enrollment goes up because of shortages, then budget cuts kick in, causing a surplus of teachers.

"As the economy starts to reshape itself, we're going to see our numbers in the graduate programs continue to grow as well as in the initial preparation programs," he said.

It's good news for his program but bad news for teachers like Spencer.

"I'm just really hoping I won't have to put plan B into place because I like plan A," Spencer said.

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