By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — The good news for St. Tammany school employees is that no one is losing their job, and no one will see a cut in pay.
The bad news, as reported at the School Board meeting last week, is that Superintendent Trey Folse is recommending several major changes to policy that will affect the ability of teachers to take sabbaticals or sick leave.
It was over a month ago when the school system confirmed various reassignments for employees, all to save money. Counselors, librarians and curriculum specialists were put back into the classroom, all in an effort to focus strictly on teaching, even at the expense of “specialty positions” that are not mandated by state law.
Assistant Superintendent Pete Jabbia said the moves are reflective of the continuing financial crunch the school system is facing, mainly due to increases in teacher retirement and health costs, along with a $45 million decrease the past three years in state funding.
The financial crunch for the school system continued to show its face last week at the Committee as a Whole meeting, where Folse and Jabbia explained to School Board members why they want various changes made in sick leave and sabbatical policies.
School officials are asking the board to approve the elimination of extended sick leave and sabbaticals in all cases, except catastrophic illness or injury to the employee or a family member.
Folse also recommended freezing teacher pay for all of the 5,500 employees for the coming 2012-2013 school year.
School Board members will vote on these proposals this week at the Thursday, June 14 School Board meeting, but from the comments at last week’s meeting, the recommendations are expected to be approved.
School Board members felt fortunate that no teacher layoffs have materialized yet for St. Tammany, as they have for other school systems in the state where the same state funding reductions have been felt.
Folse said the school system hopes to save approximately $16 million with these changes, and the previous ones.