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South Callaway cuts teacher tuition reimbursement

— Board members unanimously voted to cut the South Callaway School District’s tuition reimbursement program for teachers wanting to further their education.

The vote came after much discussion on the topic during Wednesday night’s board of education meeting. Currently the district reimburses teachers for up to eight graduate college credit hours a year, but this will be discontinued when the fiscal year ends.

Superintendent Mary Lynn Battles compiled some figures for the board’s review, showing the district had already spent $41,780 for the 2010-2011 fiscal year on tuition reimbursement, a number that has increased from previous years. Board President Erin Howard told fellow members the figure was close to a teacher’s annual salary, and though some teachers may suffer from cutting the program, “our students come first.”

“This has always been a benefit, and in good times you can offer those benefits,” Howard said.

“I think it’s run its course ... and unfortunately I don’t think we can continue to do it.”

John Elliston, principal of the Early Childhood Learning Center, told members he uses the tuition reimbursement program as a recruiting tool to attract new teachers to South Callaway.

Board Vice President Kit Glover said the reimbursement program “can always be reinstated” later.

Howard said with all the funding cuts, the district’s budget has to be trimmed.

Members also voted to approve the 2011-12 school calendar, after much debate about senior graduation day. Howard noted that the May 11 graduation day may interfere with certain athletic events.

The board was told this May’s graduation fell at the same time as a sporting competition, so members discussed moving the date for next year so not to have the same problem repeated. Members decided to approve the calendar with the option of changing the graduation date later on.

After a brief public hearing with no comments from anyone present, Battles informed the board that the state required the district to have a public hearing to set the first day of school more than 10 days prior to the first Monday in September. The first day for the 2011-12 school year will be Aug. 15, and with no snow days, the last day will be May 16.

Another change to the calendar was only having two early-out days for teacher professional development. The other professional development times were scheduled as full days and students would not attend school on those days.

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