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Board Briefs: Preliminary Budget Information Calls for Continued Class Size Decreases

Posted On: Friday, March 18, 2016

The School Board on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at its Strategic Work Session with the Superintendent of Schools reviewed preliminary information that will influence the School District’s 2016-17 Annual Budget.

Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he and his staff are preparing the budget for a May presentation to the School Board, with a focus on priorities of: reducing class size, continuing competitive compensation for employees, improving instructional resources and restoring financial reserves.

“I feel the strongest about class size,” Dr. Hightower said, noting that he wants to maintain CCSD’s emphasis on using increasing revenue due to the declining State’s “austerity budget cuts” for this purpose.  “I have said that it would take us 10 years to get back to where we were before the Recession for class size, but for us to be this close this quickly, it’s impressive.”

The preliminary information presented to the School Board indicates that CCSD could use $2.3 Million of the State’s proposed $7 Million reduction in “austerity budget cuts” to shrink average class sizes to: 20.6 for kindergarten, 21.3 for Grades 1-3, 27.4 for Grades 4-5, 27.1 for Grades 6-8 and 29.5 for Grades 9-12.  This move would lower average class sizes across all grades; the information also noted that it would require an additional $4 Million in reductions to State “austerity budget cuts” to hire the 50 teachers needed to complete the return to pre-Recession class sizes.

Dr. Hightower also presented several options for preserving competitive compensation levels for CCSD’s 4,500 employees.  While the Governor has proposed that school districts use the reduction in “austerity budget cuts” to award 3% salary increase to teachers, Dr. Hightower reminded the School Board that CCSD traditionally recommends increases for all employees, not just one group.

He said a better solution to provide sustainable salary increases to all employees would be a longevity step increase, which amounts to approximately a 2.5% bump up on average.  Dr. Hightower added that this is in keeping with CCSD’s history of using longevity step increases versus one-time pay hikes in order to “maintain the trajectory” of sustaining competitive salaries.

Other major priorities highlighted by Dr. Hightower during the work session and regular meeting included restoring funding to the Office of Educational Programs for instructional materials, beginning with math resources that have not been updated districtwide in many (eight) years; and for support staff to assist teachers and administrators with special programs.  One such program specifically mentioned was Response to Intervention, which aids students who are struggling in class due to academic or behavior issues that could be corrected with more personalized instruction.

The Board also approved monthly personnel recommendations including the retirements of three longtime leaders: David Gazaway, Coordinator of Vehicle Maintenance, who retires after 40 years of service entirely to CCSD; Don Corr, Director of Staffing, who retires after 33 years as an educator; and Susan Turner, Supervisor of School Nutrition, who retires after 30 years as an educator.  All three received standing ovations from the audience.

As a result of recent promotions and retirements, subsequent personnel recommendations also were announced including:

  • Rick Beaulieu, Assistant Superintendent for the Office of Personnel Management, who currently serves as Executive Director of HR Services for Atlanta Public Schools;
  • Dr. Adrian Thomason, Director of Personnel – Middle Schools/High Schools, who currently serves as Principal of Creekview HS;
  • Cathy Elliott, Director of Personnel – Elementary Schools, who currently serves as a Supervisor in the Office;
  • Dr. Jennifer Scrivner, Director of Assessment, who currently serves as Principal of Clark Creek ES STEM Academy;
  • Dr. Keith Bryant, Director of School Improvement, who currently serves as Supervisor of Special Education;
  • Jim Georges, Director of Transportation, who currently serves as Coordinator of Transportation Routing and Operations;
  • Tammy Castleberry, Supervisor of Curriculum, who currently serves as Principal of Macedonia ES;

As a result of these changes, several Principals also have been reassigned and Assistant Principals have been promoted:

  • Dr. Mark Merges, Principal of Creekview HS, who currently serves as an Assistant Principal for Sequoyah HS;
  • Joey Moss, Principal of Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, who currently serves as Principal of Boston ES
  • Izell McGruder, Principal of Boston ES, who currently serves as Principal of Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy
  • Dr. Carolyn Daugherty, Principal of Macedonia ES, who currently serves as Assistant Principal for Johnston ES; and,
  • Rodney Larrotta, Principal of Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy, who currently serves as an Assistant Principal for Cherokee HS.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized School Board Members for School Board Member Appreciation Week;
  • Recognized Dr. Susan Zinkil of Teasley MS as Georgia Middle School Principals of the Year;
  • Recognized Bob Van Alstyne of Etowah HS as State of Georgia and Region 5-AAAAAA Athletic Director of the Year;
  • Recognized Cherokee County School District Library Media Specialist of the Year Jennifer Rice of Macedonia ES and Innovation Zone winners;
  • Recognized River Ridge HS senior Allie Robbins as a Georgia Youth Leadership Award Winner;
  • Recognized CCSD’s 2015-16 All State Chorus Members;
  • Recognized First Lego League Regional Champions from Canton ES STEM Academy, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy and Woodstock ES;
  • Recognized State and Regional Champions from Creekview HS and Etowah HS;
  • Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with Waste Management;
  • Approved authorization of individuals who can act on behalf of CCSD retirement plans;
  • Approved naming Board Member Rick Steiner as the Board’s Delegate for 2016 Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) Delegate Assembly;
  • Approved Regions Bank as the bond-paying agent;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly update on capital outlay projects;
  • Approved a special lease agreement;
  • Chair Kyla Cromer announced that previously scheduled Whole Board Governance Training on March 24 is canceled, as Board Members already have met or are meeting requirements through other means.

Board Member Kelly Poole was not present, as she was chaperoning a school field trip.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. April 21, 2016 with a 6 p.m. Strategic Work Session

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