Saturday, April 14, 2012

Slicing away another pound of flesh

Budget crisis may force Cobb teacher layoff of 200
by Lindsay Field
April 12, 2012 10:08 AM | 6056 views | 89 89 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb County school district may have to lay off 200 teachers to ease a $62.4 million deficit, school board members learned Wednesday.

Board members also agreed to pursue a SPLOST IV when presented with a billion-dollar list of needs at their work session.

Kathleen Angelucci, who represents north Cobb, did not attend the meeting.

The board spent more than an hour talking with Mike Addison, Cobb’s chief financial officer, about ways to deal with the $62.4 million deficit the district is facing in the next fiscal year.

Addison recommended cutting 350 staff positions; increasing class sizes by two students; increasing the number of furlough days from two to five; reducing the number of school days to 175 from 178; delaying salary step increases by half a year; eliminating 50 library positions; reducing, and eventually eliminating, funding for Project 2400; and taking $21.5 million from the $99.8 million fund balance.

Hinojosa has said that the 350 jobs should be cut through attrition, but that may not be possible this year.

“Our resignations are not hitting the pace that we had intended for it to hit by this time,” he told the board.

Hinojosa said he learned Monday that the district is about 200 positions away from the 350 needed to avoid layoffs.

Because the school system makes the budget before it knows how many employees won’t be returning for the next year, the district doesn’t know the extent of, if any, the layoffs they’ll have to do.

After the work session yesterday, Hinojosa recorded a video for district staff members asking them to let his staff know if they were planning on leaving the district at the end of the school year.

“We’d hate to lay people off then hire them right back, like we did two years ago,” he said.

In 2010, the district laid off about 1,000 employees, then had to turn around about month later and hire about half that number because enough employees left the system.

Connie Jackson, president of the Cob County Association of Educators, said Hinojosa’s news of possible layoffs was a “bombshell.”

“We were assured throughout the process that no (reductions in force) would be done,” she said. “To find out today that it’s back on the table is devastating, and it will be even more so to my overworked, overstressed teachers.”

The layoff discussion comes only months after Hinojosa sought to hire 50 provisional teachers in south Cobb schools on two-year contracts from Teach for America, which would have cost the district $400,000 on top of normal salaries. Hinojosa has said the extra costs would be paid for with private funds.

Board member Lynnda Eagle, who represents northwest Cobb, recommended forcing only three furlough days and reassessing cutting the number of media paraprofessionals.

“Those two things could help with the morale of our teachers,” she said.

If the district did not make those two cuts, they could be looking at a $7 million bigger deficit, Addison said.

Northeast Cobb board member David Banks also continued to argue that cuts were not necessary based on the nearly $99 million the district has in reserves.

“Right now we do not have to endure any of these monetary cuts,” he said. “We have the money.”

The board will decide at its April 26 night meeting whether to approve the tentative budget and will approve the final budget on May 17. In the meantime, Addison told board members they could tweak the budget as much as they see fit.

Salary hearings will also be held at the board office on April 26 and May 7 at 6:30 p.m. and a public forum will be held on May 7 at 7 p.m.

In other business, the board also decided after nearly two months of talking about different funding sources for district needs that they would pursue a fourth SPLOST.

Since February, the district’s deputy superintendent of operations, Chris Ragsdale, has made multiple presentations about how much it would cost for technology, music, curriculum and instruction, maintenance and transportation and athletic needs over the next five to 10 years. According to his numbers, the district could be looking at a cost of about $1.15 billion.

Upon hearing that, board members asked Hinojosa and the SPLOST staff to move forward with creating a SPLOST IV notebook.

Chair Scott Sweeney said the project notebook needs to be created between May and July to let voters decide on whether they want a SPLOST IV in March 2013, which would allow it to start immediately after SPLOST III if it were approved. Ragsdale said he and his staff could meet that deadline.

Ragsdale also said some of the SPLOST notebook work would have to be outsourced, to which Hinojosa agreed, but couldn’t say how much that would cost.

“Our current staff, they’re working on the current SPLOST and we gotta finish those projects,” Hinojosa said. “They have full-time jobs right now, and they can’t just stop what they’re doing and put together a notebook.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved the termination of Tapp Middle School Principal Dr. Jerry Dority and school counselor Yatta Collins

Hearings for the pair, whom have been on administrative leave since February, were held on separate dates in March. At those times, panels consisting of three school board members both recommended the firing of the two because they failed to report the sexual abuse of a female students within a 24-hour time period.

The board also approved the retirement of Deputy Superintendent Alice Stouder and district principals Wanda Floyd, Sharon Hardin, Lynn McWhorter, Elizabeth Wilson and Susan Wing and the reassignment of Chief of Staff Dr. Cheryl Hungerford to Deputy Superintendent and Area Assistant Superintendent Dr. Angela Huff to Chief of Staff, Mark Trachtenbroit from assistant principal at Wheeler High to principal at Griffin Middle and Darlene Mitchell from principal at Powder Springs Elementary to assistant principal at an undetermined location.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Budget crisis may force Cobb teacher layoff of 200.
(from The Marietta Daily Journal)

If this is happening Cobb, one of the wealthier counties in the state, what is going to happen in my poor little county?

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