Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

Grove Schools recently notified 21 teachers that they might not have their contracts renewed for the 2010-2011 school year.

Superintendent Tom Steen explained that the move to notify the teachers, who are all on temporary contracts, that they may not have jobs this fall was a “precautionary first step” in dealing with a budget that may fall short next year.

Oklahoma has cut its aid to school districts by ten percent, leaving many schools across the state scrambling to provide education with drastically limited funds.

Grove Board of Education Chairman Dr. James Rutter said the 21 teachers whose contracts may or may not be renewed next year are all in their first year of teaching at Grove.

“We are required to notify them by June 1, but we won’t actually know if we have to let them go until June 30,” Rutter explained.

“There is a possibility that all 21 will be rehired – that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “Realistically, maybe half of them will be asked to come back.”

According to Rutter, 87 percent of the school’s budget goes towards salaries.

“You can trim a little bit here and there, but eventually you are going to have to cut some salaries,” he said.

However, he added, “The very last thing we want to do is take teachers out of the classroom.”

Rutter said the latest ten percent cut in state funds comes on the heels of the five percent cut in state funds for the current school year.

He said on October 1 of the 2009-2010 school year Grove Schools had 100 more students than the previous year, and less funds.

In addition, he said, the school was expecting $200,000 from the state in December and that money did not materialize.

“The year after this coming year will be even tighter because the TARP money will be gone, too,” Rutter observed.

He said the Legislature has been less than helpful.

“Instead of doing something to help, they passed a bill that raises the limit on class sizes to 30,” he said.

Rutter noted, however, that the school is doing everything it can to keep class sizes smaller and find other ways of cutting the budget.

He noted that the school recently installed security devices on its school buses that will, among other things, help drivers find shorter routes and save the district a substantial amount of gas money.

Grove School Board of Education meets tonight at the Grove Middle School Library at 7 p.m.