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Muscogee Co. Schools letter to employees

During the week of July 28, Muscogee County Superintendent, Dr. Susan Andrews sent this letter to school employees:

Good afternoon,

It has been my experience that the most exciting time in the lives of educators is the beginning of the school year.  I find myself looking forward to another opportunity to make a difference for our students! Being in critical economic times has created additional anxiety for the beginning of this year.  I want to try to answer some of the questions that we have been getting concerning the possible furlough days.  After reading this, if you have other questions, please refer them to your principal or supervisor and we will get you the answers.

This is what has happened so far:

The Governor has told us that he will be withholding a total of $7.2 million dollars from Muscogee County Schools.  This includes cuts to QBE and three days worth of salaries.  He has asked that school districts furlough employees for three days.

Because there are paperwork and record-keeping issues with furloughing employees who are called "exempt" (teachers) under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it was necessary for us to amend the calendar to move the days that may become furlough days to a place in the calendar when there were no other activities.  Because of this and in anticipation of furloughs, the Muscogee County Board of Education met Monday of this week and amended the school calendar to move the in-service days of October 23, February 11, and March 15 to the week of December 21, 22, and 23.  The State Board of Education in Atlanta voted this morning to change the state rule that currently requires 190 days minimum for school employees; therefore, allowing systems to enact the furloughs requested by the Governor.

October 23 will now be considered a Fall Break Day - no school for students, no work for employees.  We will all be off on this day.  The same for February 11, (Winter Break) and the same for March 15 (Early Spring Break for one day).  Just as you don't get paid for Christmas and Spring Break, you won't be paid for these days.  These are not furlough days; they are now just "off" days. 

The in-service days which were scheduled for these three days have been moved to December 21, 22, and 23.  I will make a recommendation to the Board at the August meeting that these three days in December be the furlough days for Muscogee County Schools. 

That means that all employees (except food service and bus drivers, (who don't work in-service days) and security) will be furloughed for these days.  Furlough means we do not work and we do not get paid.  Therefore, your salary for the year will be diminished by three days. 

If the Board votes in August to do this, then the amount of money you would lose for those three days will be spread over the checks you receive from August through the end of the year.  This will keep us from subtracting a large amount from any one check.  The year-round schools will also participate and I will take a recommendation to the Board concerning which in-service days they will furlough.

The question has been asked, "who will be furloughed?"  All employees (except food service, bus drivers, and security) will participate in the furlough and will be docked the three days of pay.  I will take the furlough days, the Cabinet members will take the furlough days, all supervisors, clerical, principals, other administrators, teachers, maintenance and operation, etc. will lose three days of pay and will not work on these days.  I have already received calls from members of the Board of Education directing me to withhold their pay so, you see, we will all be a part of this.

We are in tough economic times.  Not just Muscogee County, but the State of Georgia and the Nation.  K-12 education, although having to take many cuts, has not been asked to take the level of cuts as other state agencies.  As always, in tough times and in crisis, educators are asked to step to the plate and be a part of the solution.  We have chosen a profession in which we give our hearts and souls to help others have a better life.  By participating in this furlough, we are again doing our share to help.  It is not pleasant.  It hurts to do this; but, I know educators.  We will do this and protect our classroom time, our students, and will move forward as the warriors that we are. 

Thank you for your understanding of what we are facing.  Please know that this action is not the Muscogee County Board of Education doing this to employees, or the Superintendent doing this to employees, or even the Governor punishing educators.  The revenue for the State of Georgia is lagging far, far behind what is needed to fulfill the budget, and the Constitution of Georgia requires a balanced budget; therefore, even the Governor does not have a choice in making the cuts.  K-12 education is the largest portion of the state budget and we have actually been cut the least of all state agencies.  We will get through this.  We will teach school.  We will have a successful school year.

I believe in your ability to rise above the negative and move forward.  Please let me know if you have questions that I haven't answered.

Susan Andrews, Superintendent
Muscogee County Schools

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