Gwinnett school system hiring 425 teachers

Gwinnett County school officials said Thursday that they've found jobs for 236 employees who were displaced in the school system's recent downsizing and are bringing on board 425 new teachers for the school year that starts in August.

The bulk of the new hires -- including 175 that have already been signed up -- will be working with some of the district's 19,000 special education students, said Frances Davis, the school system's chief human resources officer.

As they prepare for the fiscal year that starts July 1, most school districts across metro Atlanta have been making deep budget cuts due to declining property tax revenues and state support.

Gwinnett, the state's largest school district, decided, among other things, to leave vacant 585 jobs where employees are retiring or resigning.

Some other districts have ordered massive layoffs. In Gwinnett, Davis said, there's been plenty of pain.

"Our schools are hurting," she said during Thursday's monthly school board meeting. "This cuts into the core business of what we do."

For example, Davis said, the county's high schools have, on average, each lost 15 to 20 teachers.

School board member Robert McClure laid much of the blame on the state.

He said he "finds it disturbing" that state officials who have cut public education for 11 straight years are also the same group claiming "that public education is doing a lousy job."

He said it is particularly troubling given the push at the state level for a constitutional amendment to allow the state to create charter schools, even though legislative leaders acknowledge that charter schools are "no silver bullet."

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said: "That's the plan to defund, privatize and dismantle public education."

Gwinnett County schools sued and won a court fight over the Georgia Charter Schools Commission and its ability to approve and fund charter schools that local school boards have turned down.

In the recent General Assembly session, lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that goes before voters in November and, if approved, would basically reinstate the state's power to create charter schools.

On the issue of the new hires, the school board was told that 175 jobs have been filled and 250 are still to be filled. Among the 175, 90 were hired for special education, Davis said.