CITY facing 70-percent staffing cut

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

CITY programs across the state of Alabama will face 70-percent staffing cuts unless the program gets the $1.7 million it needs to remain at full staff until September.

“We’ve got 69 employees that are going to be without a job, some temporarily and some permanently, if we don’t get the funding,” said Betty Tidwell, coordinator of Chilton County’s CITY Program, which helps students that have fallen behind by either placing them back on grade level or allowing them to earn a GED.

Locally, the program could lose seven employees — bringing them down from nine to just two, a program coordinator/teacher and a counselor.

That’s not nearly enough to serve the maximum 30 students, which will be reduced to 15 if the proposed cuts are made, Tidwell says.

“We graduated 26 this past fall,” she said. “We had about 23 on roll after those students graduated.”

Now there are students trying to get into the program, but they cannot be accepted as long as there is uncertainty about the number of teachers, Tidwell explained.

In order to provide one-on-one instruction for 30 students, the program would need at least six staff members. The proposed cuts would reduce the number of teachers per classroom from three to one.

“The students are the ones who are going to suffer the most, I think,” Tidwell said. “That’s really important to give them as much one-on-one attention as they need.”

District Judge Rhonda Hardesty has direct involvement with each of the students and their parents because the only way to enlist in the CITY program is by court order.

Hardesty said the cuts would be “a terrible injustice” to children who benefit from the program.

“It’s been a tremendous service to the kids and families of Chilton County,” she said. “Many of these students have gone on to earn their GED and are in college now. The CITY program helps facilitate that.”

There seems to be a misconception that all students in the CITY program are troublemakers. Students can fall behind for numerous reasons, however. Getting them caught up with their classmates helps their self esteem, Hardesty said.

The Chilton County program alone has served roughly 800 students since its inception in 1994, estimated Tidwell.

Now, the leaders of Central Alabama Community College are doing what they feel is necessary for the program to survive. The cuts will take effect April 30 unless the funding comes through.

But not all hope is lost. The Alabama Education Association is working with CITY programs statewide to obtain funding. One solution would be to have the program placed under a different umbrella.

“They would have to place CITY under the Department of Youth Services,” Tidwell said. “They license us anyway to stay open. We are now under the two-year college program.”

Tidwell, who has been with the Chilton County program from the beginning, may even be transferred to another program elsewhere in the state, but she does not want to leave.

“I’m not going to walk out that door very easily to hand my job over to somebody else,” she said.