School board gets lesson in belt-tightening
by Lindsay Field
April 19, 2013 12:00 AM | 4199 views | 12 12 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta City School Board members got a few pats on the back while learning what they could do to make the district more fiscally streamlined.

Stephen Frank with Education Resource Strategies spoke to the board for about an hour, explaining what the nonprofit has done so far to determine how to best maximize resources.

The project is funded by federal Race to the Top grant money Marietta City Schools received last year.

“We are learning a lot from Marietta,” Frank said. “There are some tremendous strengths here.”

He said this is the first time that his Watertown, Mass.-based organization has worked with a district as small as Marietta. Most of their clients are large urban districts like Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.

Frank said he was impressed with the financial status of Marietta, saying “You make the most of what you have.”

He applauded their small central office budget.

“Kudos … You are asking (Marietta Superintendent Dr. Emily ) Lembeck to do a lot on a very tight budget,” he said.

After one year of studying the district, Frank did have a few suggestions, specifically regarding its teacher quality and how they can increase that.

“You want to ensure that all students have excellent teachers,” he said. “You also need to determine how you can retain and leverage the most effective teachers.”

Frank said his organization loves the idea of adding coaches at school to create this environment but was worried because Marietta didn’t have enough.

“Take resources from elsewhere and add more coaches … you must improve that instructional quality,” he said. “It’s not about keeping the same level of instruction, but making it better.”

Lembeck asked the board Tuesday night to consider an option that might address Frank’s recommendation.

She asked that the board replace nine paraprofessionals with three and a half literacy specialists.

It was approved 4-0-1, with Brett Bittner abstaining.

There is only one elementary level reading coach at this time, and this proposal would allow for there to be specialists to work with students in kindergarten through eighth grades at seven elementary schools and the coach to work with fourth and fifth-graders.

She asked for approval during this week’s meeting so that the district could go ahead and begin training the new hires over the summer.

“We also want to recruit from within (the district) our strongest candidates,” she said.

Purchases or district changes approved

The board approved about $526,600 in technology purchases, including a pilot program called Project Engage, during its combined work session and regular meeting as well.

The first investment into Project Engage will cost the district $45,000 in desktop computers, software and furniture to benefit 50 seventh-grade students to implement.

The program was designed for specific students who are interested in learning both online and in a traditional classroom setting with a teacher.

Board member Tony Fasola said the board is energized about the opportunity for its middle school students.

“I think it’s great!” he said.

Fasola also agreed with Marietta Middle Principal Tim Jones about having students write essays to determine if it’s a good fit for their learning styles.

Irene Berens asked about what type of students would qualify for this program, and Jones said that it will be open to high and low performing students.

“We are hoping to maybe encourage the less discouraged student,” said Associate Superintendent Dayton Hibbs.

The board also approved buying a $227,309.78 DELL Blade Center System, which is a computer server with storage space; purchasing 350 laptops with three-year warranties from DELL for $242,550 for A.L. Burruss, Dunleith, Lockheed, Park Street and West Side elementary schools, Marietta Middle School and Marietta High School; and a $12,800 contract to buy an iPad system for West Side Elementary School, which includes a learning lab with 20 iPads, other equipment and insurance.
Comments
(12)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
My Opinion
|
April 21, 2013
The problem of Marietta City Schools is fundamental my fellow constituents. The Superintendent made a very poor business decision by selecting a former principal, with limited experience, as Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. This Executive Director is a seasoned elementary school principal, with great results managing K-5 grade levels. She lacks the experience and knowledge in grades 6-12 education, which makes it difficult to be effective in this position. This individual appears to be over her head. The Superintendent now seeks additional resources to support her initiatives. Is the answer to hire literacy coaches, which previously failed for MSC in the past? It appears that the Superintendent does not have a strategy; she struggles to reach the school system’s educational goals. She spends money by increasing headcount in areas that have proven to be unsuccessful in the past.
Good Lord
|
April 23, 2013
What planet do YOU live on? The MCS district has never had Literacy Coaches before and only have TWO Math coaches!

Jill Sims is also doing an amazing job.
anonymous
|
April 19, 2013
Thank you Brett Brittner for abstaining on the vote for replacing 9 papros with literacy "coaches." Have the literacy coaches been evaluated for their effectiveness? I teach in the system, and my parapro is ten times more helpful than any literacy coach.
Children First
|
April 19, 2013
Do we really need these positions for such a small school system with only 8400 students?
Marietta Observation
|
April 19, 2013
We need to go back to the real issue: making solid business decisions on what is best for our students. MCS is becoming a school system that is too top heavy at the Central Office level. Let’s get back to the basics Marietta!
anonymous
|
April 21, 2013
Did you even read the article? It states the central office staff is smaller than most.
Marietta Observation
|
April 19, 2013
Congratulations to the new MCS Board member Brett Brittner. I hope that he stays true to his libertarian beliefs as he represents our multi-ethnic community. I support the newest member of the board as he helps MCS realize more fully the goal of being a vibrant, effective, and inclusive teaching and learning community.
FunkyColdMedina
|
April 19, 2013
Ask ANY teacher what they think about coaches and you will hear an uproarious cacophony of laughs mixed with weeping. Teachers give up their planning time to listen to an "expert" tell them what they are doing wrong and what they should be doing. What the teacher most needs to ensure student success is TIME; time to plan individualized instruction and assessment. Losing your planning time to some book smart coach undermines this terribly.
Wayne Ullot
|
April 19, 2013
AGREE AGREE AGREEE!!! You know who has TONS of coaches? Cobb Schools! Look how well that's working out for their budget.
Logical Chef
|
April 19, 2013
There is simply very little research available to prove that Literacy Coaches have a direct postive impact on student scores. The research that is available for developing a teachers skills in these "coached" areas shows that it can just as effectively be delivered through professional development. ALL Georgia teachers are required by law to have professional development to retain their certification. Why do I need to hire a new coach? Subject Area coordinators or central office curriculum directors can deliver this info as an inservice. Minimal loss of teacher planning time and no additional costs to district.
MCS Teacher
|
April 19, 2013
Exactly! I don't need one more person in my classroom telling me what I need to be doing. So sad that teachers didn't get the opportunity to voice our opinions about what will effect us directly.
RealMariettaTaxpayer
|
April 19, 2013
Marietta City School’s current strategy is to add highly-compensated positions at the Central Office; Associate Superintendent for Curriculum, Executive Director for Curriculum, Director of Elementary Curriculum,Director of Middle and High School Curriculum,and now literacy specialist. For a small school system, why do we need so many resources dedicated at the Central office?
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides