At an event Saturday morning, MCS Superintendent Emily Lembeck spoke with a small group of parents about recent changes the school system has faced.
She told the group gathered in library of A.L. Burruss Elementary School, “Our teachers work hard.”
Budget woes in Cobb don’t cross over
While neighboring Cobb County Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is predicting an almost $80 million budget shortfall, and has faced teacher furlough days, increased class sizes and a shorter school year, Lembeck is proud her small system has remained relatively stable.
“For the past several years, we have not had to go into our reserves to balance our budget. This coming year we will probably do the same,” Lembeck predicted.
Parent Michael Bozza asked how Lembeck could be so confident about the stability of the district’s finances.
“We had to change the way we did business,” Lembeck said, as she described how the district recently let go all of its part-time teachers and outsourced its custodial staff.
“We made a choice when the economy took a dive. We made hard choices then that Cobb decided not to make,” said Clint Fletcher, a parent of two children in MCS.
Because of the hard decisions made in 2007 and 2008, teachers can rest assured there won’t be any furlough days or cuts in staff next year, Lembeck predicts.
“We’re in sound shape. We took some hard hits very early on,” she said.
While the final details of next year’s budget will not be worked out for the next few months, until the legislative session is over and it is clear how much legislative session is over and it is clear how much money Gov. Deal will allocate to education, Lembeck said her central office staff would be getting some preliminary numbers together within the next month. Until then, she is confident the district will be able to do it without cutting educational programs, teachers or school days.
Graduation rate on rise
Lembeck said she is working to raise the district’s 67 percent graduation rate.
The large amount of rental property in Marietta lends to a high transiency rate in the area, with students coming in and out of the system throughout the school year, Lembeck said.
The student demographics of the district are shifting, Lembeck said, with roughly 44 percent of students African American, 30 percent Hispanic and 26 percent white. It has been challenging to keep up with the needs of the ever-changing student population, she said.
This year, the district set up a “twilight school” at Marietta High School, which offers afternoon and evening courses for non-traditional students who can’t participate in school during the day.
Lembeck said the program has been a success and grown considerably since its inception at the beginning of the year. She hopes the twilight school will be able to increase the graduation rates for the district, and keep the students most prone to dropping out in school.
“We do not live in a bubble. There are families that have different home needs,” in the district, Lembeck said, “It’s very important we are doing things differently to accommodate them.”
Charter system changes, Common Core curriculum
Marietta is blessed, parents said, they have such a small and organized school system.
Because of its size, and the added flexibility that came when the district became a charter system in 2008, MCS has been able to implement many of the recent federally and state-mandated changes the school system has faced.
MCS implemented new math and reading Common Core curriculums in the 2012-13 school year, said Jill Sims, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district. The smallness of the district has allowed schools to be able to walk parents, teachers and students through the transition smoothly.
“There have been some growing pains with Common Core, “ but they have mostly been on the teacher’s end, as they have learned a new way to teach, said Delight Corbin, the assistant principal at Burruss.
Roshanda Wilson, who has a son in first grade at Burruss, said she had some questions about the Common Core curriculum before Saturday’s meeting.
After Lembeck showed her how to find answers to many of her questions on the district’s website, she felt confident she could better understand what her son was going through in the classroom.
“The system is unbelievable. My Cobb County friends are jealous of me in Marietta City School System,” said Scott Barnes, father of a third-grader at Burruss, “We will never leave the system.”