Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Meanwhile, back at the Board of Education meeting...
Well, after the suspense leading up to Obama's speech today at noon, this meeting was a pretty dull ending to the day. The speakers all did a really nice job, but there weren't many of them. Kim Gokce spoke about an unusual topic - Cross Keys High School! (Good job, Kim!) He reminded us all to join him at the Waffle House for the dedication of Abu Bangura's jersey on SAT, SEPT 26 @ 2:00pm. Several very articulate moms advocated for recess. (One of them was a doctor.) They brought research to back their claims and suggested text for an amendment. Click here to sign their online petition. What Girl Scouts - very prepared!
As for the rest, I think I'll copy Kim's style and just bullet-point the whole thing.
• Three new positions were requested by Dr. Lewis and unanimously approved by the board: A new position has been created for Dr. Yvonne Butler as Executive Director, Corporate Wellness Program. Dr. Butler is a former Principal at Browns Mill Elementary School. Mr. Steve Donahue was promoted to Executive Director, Plant Services. Mr. Donahue is the former principal of Peachtree MS. And Mr. Tony Hunter was appointed Executive Director, Management Information Systems (MIS). Mr. Hunter is currently employed as Director, Management Information Systems (MIS).
Two things: If good principals are so hard to come by - why promote good principals into corporate jobs? And - why not actually hire someone with expertise in things like Corporate Wellness and Plant Services to fill those jobs instead of filling them with people trained in education?!! Sigh.
• Marcus Turk says our funds are low because property tax bills went out late. He says we will be on track when all is collected. Mr. Womack asked if we have money in a "rainy day fund", to which Mr. Turk replied, "Mr. Womack, it's been raining pretty hard for a while now."
• The topic of FTE's came up. Jay Cunningham questioned how we could allow some schools like Murphy Candler to have no art or music when others seem to have plenty. He said that some elementary schools are lacking a science teacher. Dr. Lewis pointed out that principals are free to spend their FTE's as they wish and that smaller schools cannot afford to employ art, music and PE teachers as each FTE equates to a $65,000 expense (including benefits). He went so far as to say that if we did that, we would be bankrupt in about 24 hours! However, Dr. Lewis suggested that 4 small schools can share a teacher if they use .25 FTE each. I think Jay has an excellent point and I think it could be time for the school board to step in and "redistribute the FTE's" so that every child has art, music and PE. This is just not right.
• Womack, McChesney and a couple of others requested that Pat Pope make all bids and offers available for them to review in her office before they vote on them at these meetings. She said she would but can't make them available to the public by law.
• Pam Speaks asked how we came up with the list of schools on the request for the state capital outlay. Pope said that the state makes that list themselves. Schools on the list are: Martin Luther King, Jr. High Facility Addition, Miller Grove High Facility Addition, Hambrick Elementary Facility Modification, Woodridge Elementary Facility Modification, Hawthorne Elementary Facility Modification, Glen Haven Elementary Facility Modification, Southwest DeKalb High Facility Addition and Modification
• The board deferred the vote on the requested waivers from the state because it was written for K-8 and the state has changed the form to K-12. They intend to request the following 5 of the 7 waivers sometimes allowed by the state when a system can show fiscal need:
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS some flexibility in employing personnel for positions according to the unweighted full-time equivalent (FTE) count that is shown on the midterm adjustment allotment sheet. Examples of positions listed in this rule are: school psychologists; social workers; school counselors; technology specialists; art, music, & PE specialists; and media specialists.
Minimum Direct Instruction
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS flexibility in spending a minimum of 65 percent of the total operating expenditures on direct classroom expenditures or increasing the direct classroom expenditures as a percent of total operating expenditures by two or more percentage points over the previous fiscal year.
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS to waive the requirement that guidance counselors are engaged in counseling or guidance activities, including advising students, parents, or guardians, for a minimum of five of six full-time segments during the school day.
Class Size Waiver for K-8
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS flexibility in complying with maximum class sizes and to capture FTE funds that would have been lost if a class was over the limit on the FTE Count Days.
Instructional Extension/20-Day Money
A waiver from this rule would allow DCSS some flexibility in providing an instructional program beyond the regular school day to address the academic needs of low-performing students.
Dr. Walker closed by saying that he was very proud of DeKalb County Schools for showing Obama's speech today and not bowing to public pressure as other school systems did. Jay Cunningham encouraged parents to join the school council and PTSA, to download the parent resource guide and enforce the dress code.
All in all, I felt that although it was boring, it was still frustrating. It really bothers me to hear Dr. Lewis fret over the fact that a full time classroom teacher is a $65,000 expense (including benefits) and then turn around and promote people into high paying administrative jobs. It bothers me that this board plans to request a waiver of the law that requires 65% of the budget to be spent in the classroom and one that would put more students in each of those classrooms. It bothers me that in the area of curriculum, we have our Asst Superintendent of curriculum, Gloria Talley, with her salary of $162,648.00 - 5 directors of curriculum instruction at a cost of $438,500.00, 72 "Instructional Supervisors" at a cost of almost $6.4 million - plus 473 "Instructional Specialists" totaling $23.9 million, yet we have children who do not have art, music and PE teachers - they're entitled to one of each - they shouldn't have to choose. I am bothered by the fact that our superintendent and board seem to cry "poor" when it comes to funding the classroom, but can always find the money to bloat the administration. Our children deserve better.