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Superintendents To State Board: 'Schools are Hurting'

Superintendents from across North Carolina gave the State Board of Education a direct - and often dire - assessment of how budget cuts are affecting schools. State education leaders wanted a street-level look at the impact of budget cuts and Mooresville Graded Schools Superintendent Mark Edwards gave them a jarring image. He said the district was forced to cut 10 percent of its workforce over the last few years - meaning fewer teachers and larger class sizes. That makes a visit from the fire marshal an ordeal. "You know what we do? We run two hallways ahead of him moving things around so he won't shut us down," said Edwards. "We literally move filing cabinets out in the halls. We move desks trying to stay ahead of him. Now on one hand it sounds comical. But it's an actual fact." Edwards says many Mooresville Graded Schools classrooms have an average of more than 30 students now. Gaston County Schools Superintendent Reeves McGlohon said this is the most prolonged downturn in school funding that he's dealt with in his 42-year career. "We've gotten good at how to handle shortfalls that last 12-18 months," said McGlohon. "What we're doing right now that concerns me is we are using good strategies for short-term downturns to solve long-term problems." For example, McGlohon says Gaston County has cut training for teachers and delayed the purchase of new school buses, technology and textbooks. But now the district's equipment is failing and the average age of its administrators has dropped, so McGlohon says training and new technology are essentials. Superintendents from across the state say the downturn has brought an increase of low-income students in need of special attention, while funding to provide those services has shrunk. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh is out of town this week and did not address the state board of education's listening session.