Understanding what positions NHC schools gained and lost, and how they were funded
At the September Turnaround Task Force meeting, a group formed to improve the New Hanover County Schools district’s lowest-performing schools, a discussion ensued about position cuts.
About 11 teachers were invited to speak to task force members about what they want to see improved in their schools — and for these employees, the loss of certain positions, including those supporting mental health, was top of mind.
However, recent data provided by the district shows that most of these schools slightly gained positions when compared to last school year.
That being said, some positions were cut to make way for new ones.
And some of the positions that went away were important ones, like the loss of a counselor at Myrtle Grove Middle, for example. (*You can view the full list of these position losses and gains for Freeman, College Park, Snipes, Forest Hills, Wrightsboro, Holly Shelter, and Myrtle Grove.)
In April 2023, when the school board was discussing the upcoming budget cycle, Chief Financial Officer Ashley Sutton outlined a reduction of 125 positions overall. According to Sutton, 73 were locally funded positions and 52 were from federal Covid relief programs.
However, Sutton said that most of these positions were being “reduced through attrition as [the district] had vacancies or could place employees in other positions.”
She added that currently, she’s still working with human resources to “reconcile what position reductions are still pending.”
More recently, at the September ‘teacher roundtable’ meeting, Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust took issue with task force member Scott Whisnant’s takeaways from the teachers – that there were significant position cuts for this school year. Some of the teachers said they were worried about making the same progress with less people.
Foust told Whisnant that most of these cuts were due to federal Covid relief, known as ESSER funds, that are now drying up.
But the data shows that not all the positions that were lost were funded by ESSER, but also from state and local funds. And again, one position loss could mean another gain somewhere else.
One of the losses felt by Christey Bryan of Snipes Elementary, was a teacher’s assistant (TA) position. The funding pot for this former position was the state budget; however, the school did gain a special education TA, and that position was funded by federal dollars.
It’s a complex system of funding streams — ones that come from local New Hanover County taxpayers, the state budget, and federal allocations. Some of those federal monies come from Title I funds, which allocate additional financing for those schools that have high numbers of students from low-income families.
Last year, the bulk of the district’s $317 million dollar budget came from the state (57%), followed by the county (30%), then federal sources (9%).
According to Sutton, for state funds, normally, positions are allocated to schools for specific purposes. But say, for example, Title I funds, provided by the federal government, principals at these schools have some discretion with how these funds and positions get distributed.
Most of the schools’ funding is based on student enrollment. As of the 20-day count from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the district currently has 24,881 students. At the end of last school year, they ended with 24,796 students, showing these numbers remain relatively flat.
Last budget cycle, Foust said the district had lost 4% of its student population, a decline of about 1,000 students.
Sutton said that in terms of the next school year, the district typically gets projected student enrollment numbers from the state in January. After they receive those, they can make determinations about what positions can get funded during the next budget cycle.
- Deep Dive: At roundtable, teachers candidly tell NHCS’ Turnaround Task Force what they need to succeed
- The Newsroom: What do teachers need to turn NHCS’ struggling schools around?
- Board members discuss NHCS budget at spring town hall
- Proposed NHCS budget eliminates positions, won’t include request for increased county funding
- NHC Board of Ed discusses low-performing schools, budget cuts
- New Hanover School Board passes contentious budget request for increased county funding (Budget cycle 2022-2023)