Norfolk schools propose cuts to more than two dozen teacher positions

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools is proposing cutting more than two dozen teachers.

Superintendent Dr. Melinda J. Boone says it’s to account for declining enrollment from things like decreased birth rates to the ever-changing military population.

The $328 million proposal is larger than the current budget. It includes cuts to teacher positions and an increase in health premiums. However, even with that, there is still more money needed to balance it all.

President of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers Thomas Calhoun said, “I’m concerned about a lot of things.”

On Friday, he spoke to 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings by phone about the proposal.

“Obviously Brandi, none of us are happy when we see any positions getting cut.”

During her presentation to the board on Wednesday, Dr. Boone explained, “The budget that I presented to the board today is not a balanced budget.”

Under the plan, 44 teaching assistant jobs would be added, but there would be cuts to more than 60 full-time positions, including 34 teachers.

That move comes because of declining enrollment. The division projects over the next two years, it will be down nearly 800 students.

“It’s not shocking, it’s just disappointing. If enrollment continues to go down, so will the people you need to work,” Calhoun said.

The budget also suggests reinstating in-school suspensions, adding seventh grade to the newly opened Southside STEM Academy at Campostella and increases to the budget for facility repairs and maintenance.

“There are challenges in our budget and we still see great opportunities, but as I said to the board, it is time for us to — collectively, as a governance team — to be bold and courageous,” Boone said during the public hearing.

Although not available to go on camera for our story, both Norfolk City School Board Chair Rodney Jordan and Dr. Melinda Boone gave us the following statements:

Our budget process involves several phases.  Dr. Boone presented to the school board a proposed budget aligned to the priorities the board established.  She is requesting the board’s support of her efforts to enhance the learning environments for all students while providing additional specialized learning resources and settings, to begin the phasing of placing our staff on proper pay and compensation steps,  and to continue the options we offer to children and families as we prepare for two additional newly constructed schools coming online.  She is also recommending that we take the steps necessary to rightsize our organization while bringing our budget into structural balance.

Next week, the board will discuss the proposal we received and ultimately will decide the proposed budget we submit to City Council.  In the past, the case for realignment has been made here in Norfolk and throughout the Commonwealth.  We cannot and will not ignore the many factors that contribute to our enrollment patterns, and Dr. Boone is placing those factors before us.  Finally, we will continue our advocacy for support of public education and the emerging leaders and workers we are preparing for success.”

Rodney Jordan
Chair – Norfolk City School Board

The need for rightsizing is a reality as we work towards the goal of stabilization in the District.   The financial challenges that we currently face are not uncommon, nor is the phenomenon of declining enrollments.  There are varied reasons for enrollment decline regionally, from decreased birth rates to the ever-changing military population of Hampton Roads.  Neighboring districts are all are dealing with how best to manage rising health insurance costs and mandatory retirement increases.  We are certainly hopeful that the reductions can occur through attrition and realignment. Those in instructional positions usually hold more than one licensure certification that allows us offer other positions in line with that certification and/or their experience.”

Dr. Melinda Boone
Superintendent – Norfolk Public Schools

Even with the cuts and adjustments, the division still needs $9.5 million.

This is just the beginning of the process. The board has two work sessions scheduled over the next two weeks.

Once they vote to approve it, the proposal goes to the Norfolk City Council.