Gulfport Slashes Teaching Positions

Robin Shelton is living out her childhood dream.

"I had a really great teacher named Mrs. Haynes, and I knew that's the type of person I wanted to be when I grew up."

But after four years at West Elementary, her teaching days at the school are numbered. Shelton got word Monday, that she will lose her job next school year.

Shelton broke down and said, "It was like being slapped in the face. I have put my heart and soul into this classroom."

Shelton is one of 13 teachers who are being let go through Reduction In Force, or RIF. Fourteen other teaching slots won't be filled when those teachers retire or resign.

Superintendent Glen East said, "It's pretty drastic. This is tough on us. It's tough to talk to those individual teachers to let them know that we appreciate their service, however, we have to reduce force to make things happen."

"You're telling some pretty good folks, a lot of them young, just starting out folks, but we're sorry, we don't have a slot next year. So it's pretty tough."

East says the district used most of its reserves to cover this school year. He says the district expects a $2.3 million shortfall next year, plus, it needs to spend $1.5 million for some much-needed building improvements and technology upgrades.

East said "With the state cuts that we assume is going to happen, and the fact that there are several projects we need to work on, like buildings, leaking roofs, and air conditioners that need work".

The cuts affect more than just teachers. The school district is also slashing nine administrative positions, including an assistant superintendent and two assistant principals, a public relations director and project coordinators.

So when it comes time for end of the year good byes, there will be uncertainty for many teachers, like Robin Shelton.

"I will find another job. I hope and pray it's in education. That's where my love is. But if not, I have to find something else."

Superintendent Glen East says another option he could have taken was to ask for a tax hike, but he says he doesn't support it, because taxpayers are already burdened enough.