Conservator: Schools had too many employees

schoolGREENWOOD — The conservator of the Leflore County School District had almost twice as many employees as it should have.

Robert Strebeck, sent by the state to bring the failing district back into shape, told a civic club in Greenwood this week that overstaffing is just one of many problems he has discovered since arriving in the district in late October.

The district was taken over by the state Board of Education because of low scores on state tests and low graduation rates for two consecutive years. Superintendent Dr. Viola Williams McCaskill and all five school board members were removed from office.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reports that Strebeck said in his speech that he ordered a personnel audit.

The school district employs 541 people, including 266 teachers, he said. With a student population of 2,800, that should equate to an average of 11 students per class.

“That’s not happening. We’ve got classes that are full. Where are all those people? I’ve never in my life seen anything like this,” said Strebeck, a veteran Mississippi educator who has served as a conservator previously in five other troubled school districts.

“There are going to be some changes made at the end of the (school) year. I’m going to try my best to honor contracts until the end of the year. Probably about May or June it is going to hit the fan. It is going to happen,” he said.

Strebeck said he is sympathetic for the toll the pending job cuts will take.

“We’re talking about human beings who are teachers and administrators. They are human beings with families,” said Strebeck.

Strebeck said he has already taken care of excessive personnel costs that were added in the final weeks of the previous administration.

Strebeck said during the six weeks that the takeover was blocked by a legal challenge filed by the school board it met “unofficially” six times.

“They hired some people, they gave people raises among other things,” Strebeck said.

All of those hires and raises have been rescinded, he said.

When asked later about Strebeck’s comments, Shemeka Collins, the former president of the school board, said she had no knowledge of raises and hirings taking place during her final days on the board.

Collins said she didn’t attend most of those special call meetings and had gone on record as opposing new hires.

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