At their Wednesday work session, board members will also be discussing a set of budget alternatives that would save jobs, as well as working on an update to the district’s Strategic Plan.
Board Chair Scott Sweeney has requested that the board talk about a Teach For America agreement for FY2014.
“It’s one of the things that (Vice chair David Morgan) is very interested in and (Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa) had stated that he was going to bring it back for next year,” Sweeney said Monday night.
He was not sure how many teachers from the program would be hired or how they would be funded, but said the district would not be paying anything above the teachers’ normal salaries.
“I’ve been very clear with the superintendent … if something like this is going to cost the district, that’s a non-starter,” he said, adding that the district would have to seek outside funds to pay the required training fees.
Sweeney said that if they moved forward with an agreement, principals would have the last call on whether to hire a Teach For America teacher.
Sweeney said he wouldn’t know when a proposal would be voted on until there are more details in place.
“It was my choice to put that on the agenda because I want to make sure there was no quibbling going on between board members,” he said, not giving any additional details.
Sweeney pulled an agreement with the organization off the agenda in January just before a nightly board meeting. The contract included 50 teachers from Teach For America being hired for the south Cobb area, with their nearly $400,000 in training fees over a two-year time period being paid for with money from the business community.
The district also worked with Teach For America in the fall to help apply for a $350,000 Race to the Top grant, but they were denied the funds.
The TFA discussion was added to the agenda less than a week after school board watchers told the Journal that Harrison High’s freshman center would be approved, with a vote from Morgan, if Teach For America could come back up for a vote.
However, when contacted Monday night, Morgan said that there was no validity to him “trading votes” for a Teach For America bid and that he had not decided how he would vote on Harrison.
He also said that he’s received “tons” of emails and “a nice number” of phone calls from Cobb residents about the Harrison project and that he will explain his vote, whether it changes or stays the same as March’s vote, following the meeting Wednesday.
Morgan voted against the freshman academy in March, but approved hiring an architect and a construction location in February 2011.
Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said that bringing Teach For America back up again was a bad idea, specifically if it was for trading votes.
“I would worry that bringing up already-decided issues would open the door to all the decisions being questioned and challenged,” she said. “The possibility that they could trade votes is appalling. This isn’t politics … these are children’s lives.”
Unlike TFA, the Harrison 9th-grade center will be up for a vote Wednesday, even though the board already voted on the matter.
On March 22, the school board delayed the project in a 4-3 vote, and since then the Harrison community has been vocal in their displeasure.
Because of this uproar, Lynnda Eagle, who currently represents Harrison, asked at the April 26 night meeting that the project be reconsidered.
According to Deputy Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, the Harrison project is being presented as it was in March, and if approved Wednesday, should be on schedule to be completed as originally planned in July 2013.
“We’re going to attempt to maintain the original schedule,” he said. “There could be a few delays in parking lot work, but we’re going to try.”
The FY13 budget will also come back before the board as Mike Addison, the district’s chief financial officer, presents a set of alternatives that would preserve jobs and salaries, as requested by Eagle.
The alternates look at what costs the district could be looking at if they restored all elementary media parapros, which would cost an additional $591,458; restored two furlough days and two instructional days, $6.5 million; or restored two furlough days and instructional days and all elementary parapros, $7.1 million.
If the board approved the budget with any of these alternates, the additional funding to help fill the gap in the deficit would come from the reserve fund, which currently sits at about $99 million.
Addison has previously recommended the board approve cutting 350 staff positions; increasing class sizes by two students and the number of furlough days from two to five; reducing the number of work days from 180 to 175; delaying raises for half a year; eliminating 50 library positions; reducing, and eventually eliminating, funding for Project 2400; and taking $21.5 million from the $99 million in reserves.
Dr. Michael Shanahan, human resources chief, said only 35 of the 350 jobs remain staffed, as the rest have been cleared through attrition. He hopes the last 35 employees needed will leave before students return to the school next school year at the absolute latest, which would allow the district to avoid layoffs.
Addison said 83 people have been let go at the central office since 2008.
“The central office has been reduced from $33.4 million and 413 positions in FY08 to $26.7 million and 330 positions in FY12. The four-year reduction is 20.17 percent in dollars and 20.09 percent in positions,” he said.
Those job cuts were achieved in a number of ways: Some employees were able to find other positions in the school district, some positions were vacant and left unfilled, and some employees were laid off.
According to an Open Records Request filed by the Journal, of the 124 people who currently work at 514 Glover St., 55 of them, or 44 percent, earn $75,000 or more a year.
The board will adopt the budget May 17. The district is facing a $62.4 million deficit for the next school year.
The board will also work with Dr. Judi Jones, the district’s deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, to revamp the Strategic Plan. It was originally approved in 2009 and set to run through 2014, but is being revised at Hinojosa’s request.
She wasn’t sure how long the discussion would last, but said she would present the board with a list of 10 values to narrow down to three to five.
The list of 10 core values were reduced by the Strategic Plan Advisory Committee and based on a number of meetings among 20-plus teacher, principal and Parent-Teacher Association groups in the district.
“These are all good, strong core values,” she said
In other business, the board will also consider approving the following items:
n Closing out final projects at LaBelle, Eastside, Big Shanty and Cheatham elementary schools, which will result in the final reimbursement of $973,651.60 of the Capital Outlay Funds for these projects from the Georgia Department of Education.
n Award a contract for a consultant to prepare the SPLOST IV notebook of projects between May 18 and April 30, 2013. The bids were due at 3 p.m. on Monday.
Ragsdale said Monday afternoon that he was unsure how many bids had been received or who submitted the lowest bid, but said that information will be available Wednesday. He also isn’t sure how much the contract could cost.
Collections for SPLOST IV projects, if approved by voters in March 2013, would begin Jan. 1, 2014, and run through Dec. 31, 2018. Ragsdale has said the district could bring in around $600 million the same as what is expected to be collected for SPLOST III between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2013.
n A resolution to approve the Local Facilities Plan for 2012 to 2016 that identifies the district’s renovation, modification and new construction plans during that five-year time period. There is no cost associated with this item.
n The reassignment of an area assistant superintendent and Tapp Middle School Interim Principal Jeanne Walker and the retirement of Hightower Trail Middle Principal Dr. Hilda Wilkins.
Their replacements were not identified in the work session agenda.
Additionally, the board held a special called meeting Monday for two public forums, one for a budget hearing and a second for a salary hearing, following a one-hour executive session to talk about Hinojosa’s superintendent evaluation. The evaluation is the first of two that will be conducted this year by board members. Results will not be released to the public.
Alison Bartlett, Morgan and Kathleen Angelucci were not at the called meeting.
The Wednesday work session will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the school board office, 514 Glover St. in Marietta.