Let's start - and this meeting was action-packed, so I'll try to bullet point my way through. Click the photo of the proposed budget cuts and print one out if you'd like to follow along. Items proposed as amended to the budget on the table:
- Kelli Wright told us that the Briarvista Montessori will become a hybrid model like Huntley Hills and Midway, offering regular education in addition to the Montessori.
- Womack proposed cutting only 100 paras instead of 200 and deleting the change to the 7 period day altogether from the budget. PASSED
- Cunningham proposed instead of cutting the magnet transportation completely (as has been the plan since last year when the hub system was implemented), to go to 9 hub locations instead of the current 18. Oddly, they simply cut the savings of that line item in half, but I just can't believe that was logical. The savings to implement the full transportation cut plan was $4 million - this change won't simply cut that in half - you still have to get drivers to fire up buses to make the trips, regardless of how many hubs you pick up from. Plus, there were other transportation cuts in that line item. This may be a net zero savings. But I did understand that if they save the magnet school points, but eliminate transportation, it's kind of senseless. PASSED (Although, I don't understand why Sarah voted on this at all, she had no idea where the satellite hubs were, she seemed totally unaware of their existence, and confused as to what she was voting on.)
- Jay also proposed cutting only 9 CTSS staff instead of 18 and only 30 media clerks instead of 59. PASSED.
- Walker proposed fewer furlough days (going with line item 40 instead of 42), going ahead and paying the TSA (using line item 36 instead of 35) and increasing the tax rate 1 mill. FAILED. (Although, Walker, Roberts, Cunningham and Copelin-Wood all advocated to increase property taxes.) This means that the cut will stick; ten month employees (teachers) will have 7 furlough days, eleven month employees will have 10 furlough days and twelve month employees will have 15 furlough days. The dates of those days have yet to be determined, but teacher furlough days must occur when students are not in school.
- The board also approved a voluntary board compensation reduction of 10% (proposed at 5% by Womack and raised to 10% by Redovian) to show support for the sacrifices they are imposing on teachers. Zepora vehemently opposed this, stating that "only the rich and famous will be able to serve". Sarah agreed with Zepora, but voted for it, since it is voluntary and she can choose not to do it. (Each board member must submit a request in writing to Tyson and Turk to implement the payroll deduction.) For those interested, the board pay is $1,500 per month plus $450 per month sent as an expense check plus an additional $4,000 travel account (which most don't use in it's entirety). I'm not certain if they receive healthcare or other benefits.
- The board also found out that the decision they made last year (per Dr. Lewis) to withhold contributions to teacher's TSA accounts was against their own board policy. They voted to consider a change to the policy (it must lay for a month and will be voted on in June) and promised to go back and make the contributions that were withheld last year against policy when they have the funds. Going forward, after the policy change in June, TSA contributions will once again be withheld next year.
- Here's a wild card: There was an agenda item asking to approve the cellular contract with AT&T. Zepora made a speech against this due to the fact that the AT&T community liasion is a member of eduKALB, the group formed by the DeKalb Chamber to vet and endorse new school board candidates. She claimed any new candidate would be beholden to AT&T due to the "company's" support of that candidate. Redovian and Cunningham agreed, but the AT&T contract PASSED anyway.
Overall, there was a lot of emotionally-charged discussion about the perceived disparities between "north" and "south" DeKalb schools. Sarah Copelin-Wood, Zepora Roberts and Jay Cunningham heavily complained on this issue (you might even call it political grandstanding). Oddly, Sarah keeps insisting that 82% of DeKalb's FTE (which basically means students) live in the "southernmost areas of DeKalb". Huh? Is she saying that only 18% of all of our 100,000 students live in central and north DeKalb? I do believe that she really thinks that ALL black students live in south DeKalb! (Even if they did, this would only account for 72% of all students.) That is so twisted—and so wrong. Later this week, I will dig through the task force data and report exactly where all of our students live.
That said, these three seem to agree that the schools in south DeKalb are inferior. They stated that all of the magnets and charters are in north DeKalb and all these poor south DeKalb children "have to get up at 5 am to ride a bus to a decent school, since they are ALL located in the north." (Seems they are forgetting about DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts, McNair Learning Academy, Wadsworth Magnet for High Achievers, Champion Middle, SW DeKalb Magnet HS, Arabia Mt High's Environmental Energy and Engineering Magnet Program, the new "Leadership Academy" Charter, etc, all in south DeKalb.) Jay made the weirdest point about this. While he pontificated about how they need to work on their under-performing schools, he implored parents in his district over and over to get their children to school on time and dressed appropriately.
To wrap up the meeting, Zepora went off during the board two minute comment time. She literally ripped into David Schutten, President of ODE (Organization of DeKalb Educators). She railed that "the board has no agreement to have to negotiate with him, yet he comes before them every month making false accusations". She called him "untruthful, untrustworthy, negative and disrespectful", stating that she thinks "he is getting bolder and bolder with his nasty antics". Interestingly, David Schutten is a member of that doggone eduKALB board. Hmmmm. I sense a theme.
The final tally of the budget cuts was $104,473,918.00.
The final General Fund for 2010-11 was $746,636,912.00
The final Consolidated Budget was $1,037,292,826.00
To read the Megan Matteucci's report for the AJC, click here.
To read the meeting notes from the DeKalb Parent blog, click here.