Unless you are in the shoes of someone who has lost a job as the result of the current economy, I would imagine that it would be hard for you to completely understand that person’s state of mind. To go from being relatively comfortable financially to suddenly find yourself without a regular paycheck to take care of the mortgage on your home along with other living expenses is bound to be a shock.
It certainly was not our intent to cause such problems for the 235 teachers assistants which we were forced to layoff because of a shortage of funds with which to pay them. Regard-less of intent, the fact is that these people who had been with us for varying lengths of time were informed that they no longer had a job with us. Despite the fact that we no longer could afford to employ them, the story doesn’t end there. For those of you who were somehow involved with these people or simply were interested how the situation might be resolved, you found that more than 200 of the 235 that were laid off attended a Rapid Response seminar held by the Employment Security Commission and the Public Schools of Robeson County to help them find answers to their problems.
On hand to provide the attendees with information intended to give them direction with regard to locating potential job opportunities as well as educational and financial advice were representatives from financial and educational institutions. The presence of representatives from our school system was an indication of how concerned we were about the teaching assistants’ situation.
As it turned out, our school board at its last meeting, was able to provide concrete help for 100 of the people who had been initially laid off, By adjusting the number of hours that teachers assistants work downward from 7.5 hours a day to six hours a day, it was possible to come up with 3 million dollars which could be used to rehire 100. While it, obviously, didn’t completely solve the problem, it at least resulted in 100 people having jobs who had not had jobs prior to the action of the board.
What can be done in the future to get the situation back to normal depends on the state’s ability and willingness to provide us with the funds necessary to be able to pay the entire complement of teachers assistants as in the past.
n Johnny Hunt is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.