Hoover parents are buzzing on social media about the latest job cuts in Hoover City Schools.
The Hoover school board in a special-called meeting Thursday morning approved 78 personnel actions, including 27 job terminations, 22 resignations, three retirements, 18 transfers, six new hires, one leave of absence and the appointment of a substitute bus driver.
Details are still a little sketchy, but Superintendent Kathy Murphy said some of the job terminations were related to unsatisfactory job performance, and those positions could be refilled.
About 12 to 15 of the job cuts were related to budget cuts, Murphy said. Hoover schools are having to trim personnel to help get rid of budget deficits that, if not curtailed, will endanger the school system’s financial stability.
There was much speculation on social media that Simmons Middle School has eliminated its theater program, transferring the theater teacher to another position on staff.
Murphy said Thursday she believed that Simmons Principal Brian Cain had indeed made that decision, but she referred the question to him, saying that principals were allocated a certain number of people and given discretion on how to best utilize those personnel for their schools.
She did not as superintendent tell principals to cut certain programs, she said. “We’re all very supportive of the arts and music,” said Murphy, whose daughter is an opera singer. “Certainly I would never target a particular segment of our schools, such as the arts, and seek to eliminate them.”
“These are tough decisions that our principals are having to make. None of them want to cut any of the teaching positions,” Murphy said. “This has been a very difficult and daunting task. We understand there are faces behind the numbers. There are good people there with faces and families and homes. This is probably some of the toughest work we have to do.”
Cain, contacted Friday, declined to answer questions and referred any questions to Hoover City Schools spokesman Jason Gaston.
Gaston issued the following written statement: “In select instances regarding some of the personnel changes approved yesterday (Thursday), our school system continues to work through options surrounding school programming and staffing logistics. Our focus remains on safe school environments, student achievement and quality teaching.”
Murphy earlier this month said school officials are trying to offer the courses students want, “but there’s no way we can decrease expenditures if we keep doing the same things we’ve done in the past.”
School officials are trying to make cuts through attrition and transfers where possible, she said. They also have tried to identify electives that are less popular as potential courses to cut, she said.
Among the teachers whose contracts were not renewed Thursday was Steven Frost, who just joined the school system a year ago to teach Chinese at Hoover and Spain Park high schools. It was not clear whether that elective is being eliminated or whether another teacher would teach those classes.
Another person who lost her job Thursday was Tammy Dunn, the 2004 Alabama Teacher of the Year who has been working as Hoover’s chief academic officer for mathematics and science for the past three years. The reason for her dismissal was not stated. Her last official day will be June 30.
Murphy said student-teacher ratios in Hoover schools are rising slightly, but the average high school class will have 16 students per teacher, and the average middle school class will have 16.75 students per teacher, Murphy said.
“How many school districts would love to have that ratio?” she said. She has worked in districts where there were 24 to 25 students per teacher, she said.
Job cuts for the 2016-17 school year should “for the most part” be over, but it’s possible there could be a few more, Murphy said.