Fayette school closings ahead?

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 4:28pm
By: Ben Nelms

BoE cuts 157 positions; 2 public hearings this week to decide on pay cuts, benefits cost hikes; $10.65 million unopened Rivers Elem. School to be mothballed

Fayette school closings ahead?

With its Monday night vote to chop more than $8 million in expenses beginning July 1, the Fayette County Board of Education is halfway to its mandated goal of a balanced budget. To reach that, the board will have to accommodate an anticipated shortfall of $14.5 million.

Most of the Monday reductions involve cutting 157 staff positions from the county’s largest employer.

Next up in two public hearings at Sams Auditorium this week: Pay and benefits cuts for all employees from top to bottom — not whether, but how much.

And with the brand new Rivers Elementary School just constructed on 30 acres at a cost of $10.65 million and as yet unopened, the board decided to mothball it and to consider closing or consolidating one or more elementary schools in coming months.

The board will conduct public meetings at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Sams Auditorium in Fayetteville prior to a voting meeting Thursday night, with the goal of making up the remainder of the $14.5 million anticipated shortfall through across-the-board pay cuts and benefit premium reductions.

The board voted Monday to reduce 156.73 school staff positions for a total savings of $7,991,800, though the school system has already been informed that staff holding approximately 65 of those positions will not be returning next school year. Board members continue to say they are hopeful that most or all of the reductions will come through attrition.

Targeted reductions include 102.07 contract staff at the elementary schools, 22 staff at middle schools and 32.66 staff at high schools. School system Human Resources Director Dr. Reanee Ellis said the targeted reductions at the county’s high schools had already been reached through attrition. Classroom sizes will average 25-26 students, still below the required state maximum.

Board member Janet Smola noted during the discussion that allotment numbers are determined by the number of students expected to attend school, adding that there will be fewer children to teach next year.

Along with teaching positions to be reduced were those of a number of media specialists, counselors, graduation coaches, parapros and assistant principals. Central office positions to be reduced total $256,000, for a total of $8,247,800 in reduced staffing costs beginning July 1.

A budget-impacting item that did not get cut Monday night was a proposal to reduce the workday of regular education parapros from 7.5 hours to 6.5 hours. The reduction would have generated a savings of $496,600, but board members said they wanted to put that item on hold for the time being.

Other staff, however, will see a reduction in workdays. Work-time reductions for one in-school suspension parapro from each middle school will save $15,600, while reducing the work year for psychologists will save $18,000, and a work-year reduction for graduation coaches will save $44,000.

Acting on another recommendation, the board voted not to open Rivers Elementary, electing instead to use the new school for satellite programs next year.

Board members briefly discussed the possibility of holding future talks on closing or consolidating one or more of the system’s elementary schools.

Speaking after the votes were cast Comptroller Laura Brock, referencing the meetings Feb. 25 and 26 and the upcoming decision, said that three options for benefits premium reductions were on the table. Those reductions have a financial impact ranging from $469,000 to $3,321,800.

A final decision coming later this week will likely be pay cuts for all employees and school board members. Depending on the reduction of benefits, the board was still looking at a 1.89 percent to a 4.08 percent cut in pay systemwide, Brock said.

As with nearly every school board meeting since spring 2008, a number of school system employees voiced their opinions of proposed budget items to be cut.

Local Georgia Association of Professional Educators (PAGE) member Jan Basham told board members Monday the imperative for any organization was to take care of employees and make a better product. Addressing the salary and benefits cuts currently under consideration, Basham said she understood what the board faces in terms of balancing the budget, but added that the alternatives were too hastily proposed.

“This puts the burden on employees,” she said. “Benefits and/or pay cuts is a lose/lose proposition for the county.”

Referencing the economic downturn, bus driver and lifelong Fayette resident Danny Campbell said some saw this crisis coming, but no one did anything because “there is so much greed here.”

“We’re going to lose positions because adults can’t get together and work things out,” he said.

A regular at board meetings in recent months, bus driver David Gardner said he was totally flabbergasted and frustrated. “I offered to evaluate the energy use but did not get a response from anyone,” he said. Gardner continued by giving a fuel report on diesel use in the school system.

Earlier this year the school board voted to institute voluntary furloughs for a number of school system employees designed to create $303,200 in budget savings.

Those asked to take voluntary furloughs include principals, assistant principals and central office administrators, coordinators and directors who work under either a 210-day or a 240-day contract.

Those unaffected by the furlough vote include employees such as teachers, parapros, bus drivers, school nutrition staff, counselors and media specialists.

The 210-day employees were asked to voluntarily take four furlough days, equal to 1.9 percent of their annual salary. Those with a 240-day contract would take five furlough days, or 2 percent of their annual pay. The savings between now and June 30 would total $193,000 if all employees participated.

Other employees to be furloughed included all non-contract staff working a 210-day or 240-day schedule. Both categories of employees will take two furlough days by the end of the fiscal year. Their furlough days will be scheduled by their supervisors to coincide with times when students are not in school.

Those affected would include employees such as secretaries, custodians, maintenance employees and bus shop staff. The savings will total $110,000 by June 30. The cost per employee will range from $203-265.

The board since May 2008 has agreed to numerous cuts from across the school system. Those ranged from not filling some vacant positions to monitoring facilities more closely to save on utility costs to trimming mileage for various school-related outings.

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Submitted by WELLRANDRY on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 10:30am.

Terri, tell me is it fair that our tax $$$ continue to support students of teachers who live out of our county!!! John, evidently, has never thought of this as a possible problem for our budget. (And he has the nerve to call himself a SUPERINTENDENT!) While these teachers pay taxes in their respective counties, they are not only paid from our tax $$ but it's like a free college education!! After all, we are #1. Their counties should reimbuse Fayette county for educating residents!

CCB's picture
Submitted by CCB on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 10:50am.

What happened to all the we're #1 bull crap?

Teri Smith couldn't beat her way out of a paper bag. She should've stayed in the classroom teaching. We could've cut her loose that way.

Submitted by teacher09 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 6:13pm.

As a teacher within the FC school system, I've appreciated the comments across the board (no pun intended). I would like to interject one thing duly missing~ bottom line... with mismanagement of reserve funds, we now find ourselves no longer offering contracts to teachers with 15+ years experience. I would like to at least see the board members put a real face with the 150+ elementary school teachers that will not be offered a contract next month. Those teachers are not just a number, but people that have put in blood, sweat and tears for the children of Fayette County. Shame on FCBOE for not seeing the growing problem sooner.

Submitted by Monty07 on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 6:57am.

I have listened to all of the pod casts,read the handouts, and attended meetings. The teacher job cuts are due to the drop in student enrollment. Fayette will not loose 157 teachers. Most of the cuts will come from not filling jobs of retirees this year. Over 67 teachers have said they will retire as of Feb.23. All tenured experienced teachers will be placed. The last positions to be placed are those who work less than 1/2 time, have no renewable certificate,have no tenure or have job performance problems. All principals are involved in deciding what happens to their staff. The school board has made every effort to keep jobs for people who directly work with students.Those jobs have been given priortiy.
I have friends who are secretaries,office staff and lunch workers. They have not had any type of raise for 4 years. Teachers did receive a state mandated raise. Now the classified staff is asked to give back all of their 2.5 % raise, reduce work hours, and contribute more to pay for benefits. The pay cuts for the lowest wage earners will be more than 5%.
Teachers have been given priority when deciding which jobs to keep.
Fayette is having problems because of a loss of tax dollars due to home forclosures, and a drop in state funding. Fayette employees need to be contacting their state representatives about why Fayette is not receiving the funding needed to keep promises the state has made.

PTC_New_Native's picture
Submitted by PTC_New_Native on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:48am.

The more I see how the FCBOE is operating, the more I feel like we are being fed the "Iraq has WoMD". We go from top of the heap to behind the 8-ball.

I for one believe we need to address this now and not wait a year. We the voters made a mistake and need to correct it now. What is the process to start a recall on these idiots? Someone has to know. The shortsighted approach by the leadership has been our doom. Everything was perfect just prior to the election and less than a month after the election we are fixing huge issues in planning and funding. We need to correct an error we made and we need to do it now.

The More I learn, the Less I know

eodnnaenaj1's picture
Submitted by eodnnaenaj1 on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 8:27am.

passed on Wednesday. Below is quote from AJC article. I don't know how to make the live link thingy, but article is in this morning's AJC.

"Senate Bill 84, which passed 35 to 14, sets standards for school boards to avoid nepotism and conflicts of interest. It also establishes qualifications and training for school board members."

Perhaps there is a way to remove them.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 11:01am.

The state of Georgia permits recalls of elected officials in limited circumstances. Sadly, one reason specifically EXCLUDED from permissible recall reasons is incompetence. As long as a public official claims to be operating in "good faith", they cannot be recalled. Smola and in particular Terri Smith are very cognizant of this provision, in virtually every public meeting they state for the record that they are doing the public's business "in good faith".

"Good faith" defenses are very powerful and would likely prevent any recall of the board for poor decision making.

By the same token, abuse of public office is a recallable action. That's one reason Janet Smola conducts her public business as an elected official from her private numail.org email account instead of an open-to-the public fcboe.org email account...to prevent open record requests.

Should it be found that Terri Smith personally profited from the Board's land speculation deals, I suspect that'd make her subject to recall too. I haven't followed that business very closely, but the red flag was raised last year when it was found that Smith was an officer in a corporation that had bought some land there, which Smith first denied?

Submitted by longtimeresident on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:24am.

WHY is the FCBOE apparently one of the few local school districts that is having to resort to such measures? If you think that cutting teacher salaries will not result in a mass exodus, think again. Every board member, including the leadership on Stonewall Avenue, should be ashamed at the mis-management of a once proud, well-run organization. FCBOE should also be ashamed in pushing SPLOST, and getting your teachers to endorse this (and then turning your back on them when you are the ones that totally mis-managed the planning and building of unnecessary schools, land purchases, etc....). The entire Board and Superintendent should be ashamed to show their faces in public.

Submitted by nusport on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 8:57am.

When you reward seniors by not making them pay school taxes you will have seniors move to Fayette County, not families. Seniors benefit from a good school system through increased property values, they should have to pay to support the schools. As fewer families move to Fayette County the taxes existing families pay for schools must increase, costs to run the schools do not stay static. More and more non-school tax paying residents in the county will eventually lead to school taxes that are just too expensive for families to pay. The Fayette County School system will soon be as bad as Henry or worse, Clayton. As the City of Peachtree City and Fayette County rezone all industrial property to residential there will be no jobs in the county that can pay enough money for people to work close by and own homes in the community. Eventually Peachtree City will be a retirement community. Unless our leaders start seeing the big picture and ignore short term gain at long term expense there is nothing we can do about it, except to pay higher property and school taxes.

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 5:44pm.

Some of the very best high schools in the state are to be found in Cobb County. Walton and Lassiter high schools in East Cobb are top-notch and easily rival Starr’s Mill and McIntosh in Fayette County.

For over 30 years, all property owners over the age of 62 living in their own home have been exempt from the Cobb school property tax. The age is 62 and there is no income test.

By contrast, in Fayette County, property owners over the age of 65 living in their own home are exempt from 50 percent of the school tax, unless their Georgia taxable income for the previous year was under $15,000 when the exemption is 100 percent.

It is true that when people over 65 pay less tax people under 65, as well as commercial property owners, have to take up the slack and pay a bit more. But this is exactly what seniors did: they paid more when they were under 65 to earn the privilege of not having to pay after 65. You could say they’ve earned it.

There are many sound reasons for exempting seniors over 65. The most obvious one is that almost none of them is burdening the school system with children to educate. A second one is, as I have just explained, that they have prepaid their exemption. The third one is that seniors’ income is generally more limited (or fixed) than that of people in the work force. A fourth one might have been to encourage them to remain in their homes.

There might have been a fifth one on the minds of the politicians who were originally pushing this idea, namely that when it becomes necessary to vote on issuing bonds to finance new school buildings seniors will be less motivated and less likely to vote no.

Seniors still contribute toward the cost of educating our young people through their payment of other state taxes, including the state income and general sales tax. After all, half the cost of our schools is paid for through state and federal funding. Seniors who live in rental housing, including assisted living facilities, pay rent, and their rent includes a portion for the school property tax.

So let’s not be too hard on seniors. With good luck, you’ll be one one day.

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 6:07pm.

It would be nicer if we gave seniors a break at 62 and did away with 100% instead of 50% at 65 as they do in Cobb. And you are right, Cobb has some schools with much better grades than ours. Smola and Smith just want someone to pay the bill for their glutonous wants. Seniors living here are not the problem. The problem is the 3 amigos living here! They have cost us more money that any senior ever will.!

I resent every penny I've worked for that they have gotten their hands on.
The sad thing is that we have 3 years and 10 months more of this! People here will complain but won't do anything. Right before the next election, they will throw out a bone to the masses and they will vote them right back in.

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 6:05pm.

I paid on my house for 16 years before I had a kid in school, where was my discount, lots of people in their 60's have more income then the people with kids in school, I don't collect SS but I still pay into it, shouldn't I get a discount or a pass on that. Sorry that dog won't hunt. If you want to do it by income that would be fairer.

I yam what I yam....Popeye

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 7:49pm.

Spalding county- At age 65, the state exemption increases to 100%

Catoosa county-Senior State Exemption 100 %
Owner(s) must be 65 as of January 1. This exemption will exempt the owner(s) from state tax on the home and up to ten (10) acres of land. Once you qualify for one of the age 65 local exemptions you will automatically receive this exemption.
Walker =Local school exemption Owner must be 62 prior to January 1 of the year applied for. There is no income limit. This is a $2,000 exemption off the school tax assessment.

DOUGLAS- a reduction of ALL your assessed value for SCHOOL tax. The only requirement is that you are 62 YEARS OF AGE as of JAN 1 and you must provide proof upon applying.

Owner(s) must be 65 as of January 1. This exemption will exempt the owner(s) from state tax on the home and up to ten (10) acres of land. Once you qualify for one of the age 65 local exemptions you will automatically receive this exemption.
Local school exemption Owner must be 62 prior to January 1 of the year applied for. There is no income limit. This is a $2,000 exemption off the school tax assessment.

In Cobb County, you could pay only $300 per year in property taxes on your $350,000 home. Cobb County pays more than 40 percent of its property taxes to help other school districts in the state.

DOUGLAS- All School - a reduction of ALL your assessed value for SCHOOL tax. The only requirement is that you are 62 YEARS OF AGE as of JAN 1 and you must provide proof upon applying.

Cobb and Cherokee have lots of love for citizens over 62 years old in the form of No School Tax.

If you are 62 years old or over, you can have your school taxes removed from your yearly tax bill in Cobb County and Cherokee County by applying for the school tax exemption.

In Cobb County, the school tax represents approximately two-thirds of your property tax bill, which would afford you a huge tax savings every year. In Cherokee County, it is approximately three-fourths of the property taxes. This tax reduction is on top of the reduction for your Homestead Exemption. This tax exemption makes too much sense for most politicians to approve (it’s unlikely citizens over 62 have any school age children), kudos to Cobb and Cherokee for getting it right

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 5:57pm.

It's really comparing apples and oranges.

You also neglected to mention many schools in Cobb that don't come close to comparing to Fayette Co or Sandy Creek.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 4:57am.

Monday night was a textbook example on how NOT to hold a public meeting.

The FCBOE had called the meeting with the best of intentions: they had planned to map out the road ahead and show the county's citizens...and equally as important, their employees...that they had a clear direction in which they wanted to proceed. That's exactly what you SHOULD do in the sort of situation they are in.

Unfortunately, the state of Georgia threw a monkeywrench into their well-oiled machine by announcing more austerity cuts just 90 minutes before the scheduled meeting, rendering all the carefully considered measures by the FCBOE essentially meaningless.

This put the FCBOE between a rock and a hard place: either cancel the meeting and regroup later after they had had sufficient time to digest the impact of the latest bad news, or soldier on and attempt to solve problems on the fly.

They chose the latter course.

What resulted was one of the most unfocused public meetings in memory. Alternating between wallowing in self-pity and snapping in self-righteousness, Terri Smith led the board lurchingly through a 2-3 hour exercise in budget cutting.

The board gave some idea as to its collective priorities early on, when a good 20-30 minutes were spent brainstorming ways to save parapro positions.

Contrast that to the decision made in less than 2 minutes to cut the 10% merit pay supplement for nationally certified teachers to zero dollars ("the state made us pay that....those teachers should take it up with the state").

One episode in particular showed just how dysfunctional the FCBOE has become: there was a proposal from Laura Brock to cut all the benefits of the high school parking lot attendants. One of the attendants addressed the Board, whining about what a good job he does, now he has to pick up trash too, he hasn't had a raise in years, don't take my benefits...

It seems that over the years, his position had gone from one that was solely paid by student parking fees to one that was supplemented by the county...with full benefits.

Small wonder Mr. Attendant was complaining: he has a part-time job of 20 hours a week AND the FCBOE is giving him fully paid individual health insurance. Can ANYONE show me a private sector position with similar lush benefits?

And yet the board caved in to his sob story: oh it's sooo unfair to pick on people at the bottom of the salary scale....

Hello? Giving primo benefits to people at the bottom of the salary scale is one of the reasons we are in this fiscal mess!

Side note: do we really need "parking lot attendants" anyway?

People who attended Monday's meeting had a special treat: they all got to listen to Janet Smola lecture us why the board was "forced" to deplete it's reserve fund.

"Forced" indeed: When austerity cuts hit back in 2003, Coweta laid off first grade parapros. Fayette raided the technology and reserve funds to keep parapros employed. In 2009, Coweta has an $18 million reserve and will not need to layoff teachers in this recession. Fayette has no reserves, is cutting teaching positions, but the majority of the parapros are safe.

Differing priorities.....

Woody's picture
Submitted by Woody on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:57pm.

I've had it, I've had it, I've had it. To build an unneeded school is completely unacceptable. For the good of the county, Board members and the Superintendent should display some class and turn in their resignations.

CCB's picture
Submitted by CCB on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 10:58am.


Submitted by dool_fan on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 10:36am.

"For the good of the county, Board members and the Superintendent should display some class and turn in their resignations."

I couldn't agree with you more. With Decotis gone we would be well on our way to balancing the budget.

alittlebirdietoldme's picture
Submitted by alittlebirdietoldme on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 11:10am.

It's the Asst Superintendant that needs to go...If you've gone to any meetings, who is the mouthpiece? Who is the one who had the personal agenda for Inman Rd. and closed E Fayette? Need a hint,,,rhymes
with wet....oh yeah, SWEAT!!!

Submitted by jackyldo on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:14am.

and possible consolidation and closing of 1 or 2 more ?

My kids went to FC Schools and I don't mind paying taxes for good schools but we just also passed a SPLOST FOR THESE DUNDERHEADS.

MajorMike's picture
Submitted by MajorMike on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 8:41am.

Amen to that! Unfortunately, the unneeded school is just the tip of the iceburg. Wait until the gereral public really starts looking into the computer issue. Guess who's really behind Dell not extending the lease(s). BTW, wasn't the SPLOST supposed to be for purchasing new computers (among other things)?

So sad, John DeCotis was, at one time, an outstanding administrator. Is he merely having his string's pulled these days or has he gone over to the dark side?

Submitted by mamadutt on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 10:51am.

the school is needed!!! are your kids in trailers? my son is and the whole 2nd grade at Burch. We are over capacity by 200 kids!!! This is just another example of politics in Fayette. Only certain areas get what they need whether needed or not. North Fayette is totally ignored! We pay our taxes like everyone else yet have to endure terrible circumstances! come take a look at the windowless trailers that our poor kids have to "learn" in. if turn on a/c cannot listen to teacher. Cramped and overcrowded with 20 kids in tiny trailer! Please evaluate this situation. Maybe move all Burch to the newer and bigger school? I'm sorry that I have common sense though. Obviously, no one does. As long as you all have nice schools, don't worry about us. Why would anyone want to move up here if kids will be in overcrowded conditions? We won't need a new school if this stupidity continues! I stay at Burch by choice only because the teachers are the best in the county! I have option of putting him somewhere else, but really was hoping would go to new school. I don't know what will do now. Maybe can send the 4 buses from Landmark mobile home park to the uncrowded schools!!! that would be the 200 kids we are over here at Burch.

Submitted by 7 on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 11:33am.

There is something that you can do. If your school is overcrowded, then let EVERYONE know about it. Organize, attend, and sign up to speak at the FCBOE meetings. Get every parent who has a 2nd grader in trailers and every parent who is concerned about this at Burch to come to the FCBOE meeting tonight and every FCBOE meeting until this issue is resolved. All or you need to wear a Burch Elementary School t-shirt or pick a school color for everybody to wear. Sit together and support each other. Everyone of you need to sign up to speak, plus get a child or several children from Burch to sign up and speak and tell the FCBOE how bad it is that the school is overcrowded and in trailers. Send out e-mails and fliers to the parents in your school to get them involved in this situation. You have to stand up and say something and make other people aware of this situation before anything will be done about it. That is what happened last year. There were large groups of parents, teahcers, and students from East Fayette that stood up and asked the FCBOE to move East Fayette to Inmann because they deserved a new building. Call, e-mail, and write letters to Dr. DeCotis, Terri Smith, Janet Smola, Lee Wright, Marion Key, and Bob Todd about the overcrowding at Burch Elementary. Call, e-mail, and write letters to all the local newspapers(including AJC) and newsstations and let them know about the situation at Burch Elementary. Now, it is Burch Elementary's turn to stand up. Don't feel defeated . . . do something about it!!!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 11:08am.

Re-listening to the FCBOE meeting from Monday, Lee Wright was bragging about how the FCBOE "saved" the county significant amounts of money by purchasing computers last year and not having to pay the bill until the next fiscal year, when they presumably would have SPLOST money to pay the bill.

I would LOVE to see the terms of that deal and just how badly the county is getting hit with the carrying cost of such a deal. What was the rate of interest and what was the finance charge?

BTW Lee, deferring payment to a future period is not generally considered a "saving". It's postponing the day of reckoning.

Submitted by RT Tugger on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 8:17am.

I couldn't agree more.

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:26pm.

everything is fine, you taxpayers don't know anything, and damm it, we're just gonna build Rivers anyway!...to Rivers is going to have to be mothballed? You guys are nuts!

You bullied your way and bought acres and acres for millions, built unneeded schools for ...more..millions... and you want to raise our taxes? For what? stupidity or your part for doing it? or stupidity on our part for not stopping you?

You have made fools out of every taxpayer in the county and a fool out of the teachers and voter age members of their families.

At what point do you quit? You are sick, this has gone way past never never land. I guess you will have to be hauled out, like Clayton county members. Somebody get the wheelbarrow!

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:04pm.

The Rivers Elem., Inman Elem. and East Fayetteville Elem. situation is probably the worst case of governmental mismanagement in Fayette County history.

For the record, there was NO unforeseen decline in the student population. All of the available data clearly pointed to a decline in the student population. The official justification for the 2004 school bonds was false information.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:14pm.

Our county's education budget was just fine as recently as July 15, 2008!

Just think
No concerns about replacing PCs
No budget cuts, no employee cuts
No SPLOST needed
No cutbacks in any programs
No reserve fund worries

They were workin' miracles back then....

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:25pm.

Indeed, prior to the most recent primary election, there were, according to the BOE's Smith and Smola, no problems.

Simple example: The computer contract had an expiration date on it, but no planning for new computers, no funding and no accountability. Sadly, the BOE actually had a discussion on how they could embarass Dell into letting the FCBOE not make the final payment. Character?

We tried to tell the public things were going very wrong, but they could not make themselves believe it could be that bad.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 4:11am.

You are correct, Steve.

It's worth remembering that the incredibly stupid proposal to "shame" and "embarass" the Dell computer leasing subidiary into letting the FCBOE keep their rented computers for free for an additional 12 months was the brainchild of the only board member with "real world corporate" experience: Lee Wright, MBA, financial analyst.

That proposal was so breathtakingly fiscally irresponsible that even Wright's staunchest board allies, Smola and Smith,(no strangers to fiscal irresponsibility themselves) couldn't bring themselves to support such an odious suggestion. I can't remember a single other time when Smola and Smith declined to support their fellow cabal member.

I hope voters remember this episode when Wright comes up for re-election in 2010.

Here's the saddest thing: If you look at the 2006 five year plan (updated in 2008), you will see one of the very few "completed" and "signed off" priorities in 2006 was establishment of a reserve to pay for personal computers coming off-lease in 2008-2009. As recently as LAST YEAR they were still telling the general public that this had been taken care of....

July 16, 2008 changed all that....

Submitted by hi grover on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:38pm.

The citizens of this county want to believe evrything is fine and the choose to look away and not get involved,whether it be the school board, PTC council, or Fayette county. When will this sleeping dog wake up and shake the fleas off of iits back. It is time Fayette County...WAKE UP!!! The school system employees sent out to peddle SPLOST kept reminding everyone that the school system here in Fayette County is the economic engine that drives this county...when the school system tanks so do property values. You think the people in Clayton County can sell houses there? Can i get a great big NO from the blogger world...where are the realtors that donated $5,000 to get SPLOST passed? Are they going to be able to make a living now?

Submitted by Jaxxiesgirl on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 9:06pm.

The board meeting last night made a few things very obvious. First, not every possible way to save money has been explored. One example of this is that no one has given thought to employing parapros as ISS teachers instead of certified teachers before. I was actually surprised to learn that parapros were not already in the ISS classrooms as they are in other counties. Second, it is obvious that there are some board members too concerned with what the parents of the children at some schools in this county think than in actually doing what is best for the county and the budget shortfalls. One recommendation was made to close Tyrone Elementary and redistrict Tyrone with Burch to make two schools with equal amounts of students-one would be River's Elementary and the other would be Burch Elementary. Sounds like a great idea considering Burch is over- crowded and Tyrone is extremely under in their enrollment. It sounds even better when you consider that this would actually get us more government money because both schools would receive funding for having the correct amount of students. One would think the board would jump at a chance to actually receive more funding but no, the idea was quickly pushed down. The main reasons given were the parents of the students involved would be upset with that plan and they did not think there was enough time to make the change. Excuses once again to not redistrict properly. I have also heard several teachers nearing retirement say that they would take an early retirement if it was offered as a way to save the county money and leave jobs for newer teachers who are at risk to lose their job through the cuts. That is just one more idea that could be explored that could help and would be investing in the county's future.

So, job cuts are going to be made and benefits and pay cuts will be as well. That is obviously happening as the easy solution to the budget problems. Those of us who have been around in education for awhile will remember that schools may sacrifice their teachers in difficult times but it is not without consequences. The teachers sacrificed and mistreated today will not forget and this always leads to a severe shortage of teachers down the road. When you consider all teachers do for the low amount of pay it is insulting to ask them to take a pay cut and lose benefits when they deserve more pay. Especially considering that the work level is going to be going up greatly next year after all the position cuts.

Is anyone else upset about the fact that there is money to bailout banks and the auto industry while funds for education continue to get cut????? How about an education bailout!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 9:16pm.

Someone (Marion Key?) finally proposed a significant alternative to save money (Tyrone-Burch-->Rivers) and Terri Smith gives it 45 seconds lip service and declares it can't be done. We'd get major money from the state for opening up a "new" 450 pupil school, but Terri and the gang dismiss it out of hand.

We "can't".

This was AFTER they spent 20 G** D****** minutes discussing saving money on parking lot striping (grand total $11,000) and in the end agreed to do nothing but redistribute money from school level to county level.

Submitted by Linda Wheatley on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 9:24pm.

Smith, Smola, and Wright always gang up against Marion Key and they always outvote her.... She has made some great points and suggestions throughout the years and she gets disrespected most of the time!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 9:03pm.

So the school board has decree that the FCBOE will once again "be forced" to do comprehensive redistricting of ALL schools to account for "unforeseen school population declines" for 2010.

I can't believe Rivers must be mothballed, as the staff doesn't have enough "time or staff" to bring the school online for ANY purpose prior to the beginning of the next school year.

The little school system that couldn't.

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 7:55pm.

What, pray tell, is a graduation coach?

Submitted by Andre65 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 8:05pm.

They are paid to do what the parents should be doing. It's actually quite pathetic. Graduation coaches keep up with grades and monitor the student to see that they are doing what it takes to both stay in school AND to pass their classes. It's truly pathetic that they are needed in this county. Where are the parents?

Submitted by MYTMITE on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 5:59pm.

to the assistants and still many of our students are not performing as they should. I know, people roll their eyes when you start a sentence with "Back when" but here goes: Back when I went to high school we had a principal, an assitant principal, a school secretary, a part-time school nurse and that was it. If you were a senior, you, your parents and your senior class teacher were responsible for making sure you completed whatever was needed to graduate. We did not need 'coaching'. If a student was killed or died of natural causes, we may have had our cry, discussed it in class and then life went on as usual. Teachers graded your papers, put you in afer- school suspension if it was necessary and took turns presiding over those after-school suspensions. For the most part, you did what you were told to do and God help you if you complained to your parents about that mean teacher or tried to weasel out of your responsiblility for misbehaving. If the teacher or principal didn't straighten you out your parents certainly did when you got home. There were situations when teachers were in the wrong. You then met with the principal and it was handled. I think I got a pretty darn good education. Maybe not a lot of frills but I wasn't in school for frills but for an education. Today, some parents have their attorneys on speed dial ready to sue if little Susie or Johnny are called on the carpet. Students don't get the grades they deserve because it might hurt their self-esteem--so they are pushed and pushed to the highest level of their incompetence. School officials and parents can't figure out why little Susie or Johnny can't get into the college of their choice, balance a check book or complete a sentence. Duh! God forbid that they be reprimanded, their psyche may be damaged! God forbid that they have to face reality, it might stunt them emotionally.

Let's get back to the basics. Yes, technology has made gigantic steps and we do have to keep up in these areas for our students to excel but let's cut out all the foolishness. Parents, step up and take your responsibility--don't expect the school to do it all without imput from you. Governor, political leaders, and school administators stop coming up with all these hair-brained ideas. Stop having the teachers spend the year teaching students how to pass a test. Teach the students so that they can pass the real test--living in the real world where they have to work for a boss who will not mollycoddle them, work with people they may not like--take a job that may not be their first choice--but most of all teach them to stand on their own two feet and face life with all the pleasures and adversities that all of us have to face. With that kind of education they will excel regardless of what path their life may take, and you know what? It will be a lot less expensive and have greater rewards.

Submitted by wildcat on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 7:05pm.

My high school principal lived one block down from me and so I couldn't even get away with stuff in the neighborhood. We had a vice principal at my school, when did it change to assistant? I'd write his name, but I'm afraid it would be some type of blogging violation...anyway, he was a big Italian man with a big Italian name and you didn't mess with him! He had a mustache and those aviator glasses that were popular in the 1970s. He was the kind of guy where you would almost pee your pants if you even thought he was looking at you! And believe me, with the reflection from his glasses we never knew if he was looking at us, or not! It sounds like we had the same type of school experience. I turned out fine..well..other than my obsession with food!! ha ha ha!!!!

Submitted by MYTMITE on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:25pm.

as I too love food! LOL The thing is I loved school, and still enjoy taking classes to this day. I was in high school waaaaay before you--in fact even my children graduated before you. But they had the same type education--thank goodness. I guess assistant went to vice- or is that vice versa???

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 6:17pm.

Every person employed by the BOE, as well as their relatives that live in Fayette county are gonna vote for whatever Smola and Smith want. In other words, the more employees, the more likely they are to get what they want. Get it?

If we had round the clock tutoring for the kids that can't/won't learn, it would be a drop in the bucket compared to what the land barons have cost us. Do you realise how many ...millions..we have in vast amounts of land we can't sell? Do you realise the BOE paid 10 1/2 million for Rivers and they knew damm well they had no kids for it. That doesn't even take into consideration the...other...extra schools.

Nope, sorry, little Johnny and senior citizens don't cost remotely what the Wizard of Wall St and her cronies have cost us with their stumble bungle stupidity and arrogance. Step back and look at the facts.

zoes's picture
Submitted by zoes on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 1:25pm.

When I was in school the school counselors did that.

I'm just sayin' . . .


"Never love anything that can't love you back."

Submitted by Andre65 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 5:57pm.

Counselors still do that. Graduation coaches work with kids that are failing. Kids that don't come to school every day, don't bring a pencil, couldn't be bothered with homework, etc. They don't work with just any kid. For example, they don't work with the kids that take AP classes, kids that play sports (you have to pass your classes), or kids that have parents that actually check homework, care about attendance and care about grades. They "mostly" work with the population that just doesn't care about school. Some kids can't pass their classes but desperately want to and I am all for helping them. But the majority of the kids that are served could care less about an education. Can you imagine what kind of kids the schools could produce if they focused their attention on the kids that actually want to learn, graduate and go to college or tech school? It's too bad that we have to focus on those that don't care.

Submitted by Nitpickers on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 4:01pm.

You didn't finish the sentence---"I'm just sayin"-----
What was it?
I mean, you know? You are "called out," hey zoe come out!

When I was in school they just whooped my rear wif a wood paddle.

zoes's picture
Submitted by zoes on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 4:06pm.

Often, I'm certain.


"Never love anything that can't love you back."

dawn69's picture
Submitted by dawn69 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 1:35pm.

Right! Counselors did all that for the students. They were needed because, if my memory serves me well, state criteria for graduating credits, etc. is always changing. Some students got to their senior year only to realize that requirements had changed and they needed more credit hours in Spanish or so forth.

Submitted by skyspy on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:12am.

So, the kids are sorry and unmotivated...their parents are even more careless and irresponsible....= the taxpayers have to foot the bill for someone to be a "graduation coach"????


If you are that unmotivated and careless, to the point of not even having enough common sense to study out of self preservation; do you really need to go to college?

What a waste of money.

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 7:33am.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is yet another state-mandated, but not funded thing due to Georgia's drop-out rate. As in No Child Left Behind, local school systems have to do this, but are given no extra money to properly implement. It is usually in the county's best interest to have a low drop-out rate because this supposedly leads to a better-educated workforce, which is more appealing to industries relocating.

In the devil's advocate spot, sometimes it works better for a neutral party to be involved in a possible drop-out situation. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes parents are trying their best, and DO monitor their kids and their grades since freshman year, but are being tuned-out. A neutral party may be able to get through.

Submitted by Andre65 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 6:08pm.

I'm not sure, but I believe you are right...that it is state-mandated. It certainly makes the county look better when the drop-out rate is low, but what is the actual cost to the students that want to be in school? I kind of feel that it is taking away from them. Usually these kids are a disruption in the classroom simply because they are clueless as to what is going on and want to distract others for their own personal entertainment purposes.

I completely understand about kids tuning out parents!! However, parents should be able to control their children at some level. If school is important to the parents they will see that the child does what is needed to pass. And of course, I'm not referring to those kids that are emotionally disturbed. That is a whole different ball game, right?

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 8:01pm.

Basically these people work intensively with those in danger of not graduating on time. I still think that keeping the tech programs and curriculum in would do a lot to convince kids to stay in school. For those not interested in college right after high school, the college prep classes that they are required to take tend to encourage dropping out and then (hopefully) getting the GED.

Submitted by hi grover on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 6:04pm.

Mothball Rivers-oh horror of horrors! Why we need that school....yada, yada, yada was what the tax payers were told in the fall 2008! Smola said all those children in the trailers at Burch needed a new school...I guess they won't be going to Rivers next year...those kids are the victims in this cesspool called the Fayette County School System!
If the lil grovers were stuck in trailers again I'd file a lawsuit against the school board for gross mismanagement of taxpayer money...just unbelievable!

Submitted by mamadutt on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 10:58am.

How about we put the school board into those trailers and see how they function.? My son is in one of them and the poor teacher has a hard time trying to teach! We are actually losing people coming to our part of Fayette. (maybe less crowded eventually huh?)

Submitted by totellthetruth on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 7:27pm.

It seems to me that once again the School Board has failed to properly plan for the future. They closed East Fayette Elementary so they could open the new Inman Road Elementary. Was that the stated purpose of the bond of 2004? Sadly, the School Board failed to learn anything from that experience and continued to build Rivers even though they knew they could not finacially afford it or much less populate it.They even built the new schools at a smaller capacity 600 total capacity...
I feel like a passenger on the Titanic, we keep taking on water no matter how fast we bail .

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 7:45pm.

contrary to Smola's emails, they announce a closing of Tyrone Elementary. The kids to fill these new schools have to come from somewhere. It seems we have all the Clayton, Fulton, that want to come. What to do? What to do? "Wizard of Wall Street", there is just no way to put a price on your "wisdom".

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