LUMBERTON — More than 40 percent of the teachers assistants with the Public Schools of Robeson County lost their jobs Tuesday night when the Board of Education voted to eliminate 235 jobs.
Christina Justice, a teacher assistant at St. Pauls Elementary School, anxiously waited for more than two hours while the board deliberated in closed session whether she would still have a job.
“I just want to know if I’m on the list,” Justice said.
The board did not announce the names of those who were laid off. Notifications of termination were sent this morning, according to DeRay Cole, assistant superintendent of Human Resources.
Justice said that she would be up all night worried about the board’s decision.
“It’s just so frustrating that that group of people in there can decide whether I have a job or not,” Justice said.
The 571 teachers assistants in the school system will have to wait until today or Thursday to find out if they are among the lucky 336 who will remain employed.
The cuts are being blamed on the General Assembly, which recently approved a budget that critics say underfund education. The Public Schools of Robeson County lost about $10.5 million from the state when compared with the 2010-11 budget.
“We deeply regret that … anyone has to lose their jobs,” Cole said.
Erica Setzer, chief finance officer with the school system, said that other cuts were made before Tuesday night in order to reduce the number of teachers assistants laid off.
“That number may seem large compared to what other systems are seeing, but the other systems have already made cuts last year,” Setzer said. “This is the first year that we haven’t been able to bring everybody back.”
Setzer said that the board also decided in closed session that about 10 positions that are currently vacant will not be filled this coming school year.
Also on Tuesday night, the board announced the list of new principals and those principals who were transferred to other schools.
Charles Locklear will take the reigns of Fairgrove Middle School. Ronald Parter was named principal of Fairmont High School. The new principal of Lumberton Junior High is Erica McComb. Melissa Rogers was named principal of J.C. Hargrave Elementary School, taking the place of Shelia Gasque, who will move to the Early College High School. Melissa Flowers, principal of Early College, will move to East Robeson Elementary. Christina McMillan will be Magnolia Elementary School’s new principal. Robert Locklear will move from Magnolia Elementary to St. Pauls Elementary. Joanna Cummings will be the principal at Tanglewood Elementary. Mark Smith, former principal of South Robeson High School, was named principal at Robeson County Career Center. Tina Coleman, principal of Parkton Elementary, will switch places with Melinda Sellars, principal of Carroll Middle. Larry Brooks will move from Rowland Middle School to South Robeson High School.
In other business Tuesday night, the board:
— Elected Joann Chavis-Lowery as the new chairman of the board. She takes the place of Loistine DeFreece. Mike Smith was elected vice chairman of the board.
— Told Superintendent Johnny Hunt to apply for a waiver for the five additional instructional days, which were added to the state’s school calendar. The system will use the days to train its educators on the newly-adopted Essential Standard Common Core, a nationwide set of educational standards that emphasizes critical thinking and hands-on learning.
— Gave a special recognition of excellence to Krystal Brown, the valedictorian at Lumberton Senior High School. Brown graduated with a grade-point average of 5.028 on a 5.0 scale and was the state’s youngest valedictorian.
— Heard from James and Effie McEachin, residents of Maxton, who asked the board to reconsider its decision to use the former Townsend Middle School gym as a storage facility. The McEachins asked that the board turn the gym over to the town to use for recreation.