BoE wary of shorter school year

Tue, 07/21/2009 - 4:33pm
By: Ben Nelms

New state law allows systems to shorten 180-day school year; 1 county goes for 160, with instructional hours staying the same

Recent state law changes give Georgia school systems the ability to shorten the number of attendance days as long as total instruction time is maintained.

At least one school system in Georgia is moving away from the traditional 180-day schedule to a 160-day school year to save on energy costs. Is a similar move feasible in Fayette County? School board members weighed in on that question after Tuesday’s board meeting.

Murray County’s 160-day school year will come by increasing the hours of the school day, thus saving on energy expenses such as diesel fuel used in school buses that get 6-to-7.5 miles per gallon. Murray County would save a reported $124,000 yearly by switching to the 160-day schedule.

Though the topic has not surfaced for consideration at a board meeting, Fayette school board members were generally agreeable to exploring the many facets involved with such a departure from the norm.

Such a transition could presumably mean a shortened school year or a decrease in the number of days per week that schools are open.

“I’m open to exploring it, but I’m not prepared to support it until after we would have a lot more information about what it would mean,” said Chairman Terri Smith.

Marion Key agreed in substance, saying that the board does not currently have enough information on the variety of topics included in the discussion but that the school system may need to look at it.

Lee Wright commented about the distinctions between school districts and the potential that what works for one school system might not be conducive to another.

“One size does not fit all. What might work up in Murray County may not work very well in Fayette County,” Wright said. “There are a lot of concerns you have to look at with working parents and day care and concerns about going away from the traditional five-day a week school year (if a four-day week was considered).”

The take on the question by Bob Todd was one that centered on student achievement rather than on financial savings.

“Student learning is long-term and sequential. Student attention spans are also somewhat short. To explore the notion of cutting the days would have to take those factors into consideration. And a priority would have to be on the impact on the students, not on how many dollars we save,” Todd said.

From her perspective, Janet Smola said the possibility included a range of considerations, from student achievement and the impact on some employees on one hand to the amount of money saved on the other.

“The questions are really complicated because I don’t feel like I know what the impact of a longer day would have on the different ages of children as far as their ability to retain information and their test scores goes,” Smola said. “Teachers probably wouldn’t get less pay, but cafeteria workers would, bus drivers would, custodians would. There are just so many missing pieces as far as cost saving and test performance, but I would definitely explore it. It’s absolutely worth exploring and (the legislature) is obviously offering it as an opportunity to try to assist school systems to get a handle on the losses coming from the state. I only hope this doesn’t mean they know there are more (cuts) coming.”

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Submitted by Just Saying on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 10:27pm.

From the AJC...

Cobb School Board members voted Thursday to avoid three furlough days for teachers that would have resulted from state budget cuts. The board voted 6-1 to take about $5 million from reserves to pay its teachers, who start back to school Aug. 3. “These teachers have done a yeoman’s effort. Let’s not dump on them,” school board chairman John Abraham said.

Apparently, the Cobb School Board values their educators and has stepped up to the plate. Will Fayette's BOE respond in a similar manner or will they "dump on" the teachers who have already taken a 4.5% paycut for next year?

Submitted by youalldrivemecrazy on Fri, 07/24/2009 - 12:04pm.

I don't think Fayette has the money. The board can't pay teachers money it doesn't have.

But voters and taxpayers can make sure that we ask candidates in the next board election cycle how much they feel the county should keep in reserve emergency funds in the future. It has become clear that we need a more fiscally conservative board. And we can ask them why they waited to make a decision until more than a week after getting the news about furloughs when many other metro area schools seemed to act much faster.

Submitted by wildcat on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 10:44am.

I've just heard that there will be 3 mandatory furlough days for 2nd semester. Can anyone confirm this or is it simply a nasty rumor?

Submitted by fc1989 on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 6:49pm.

Sounds like you are trying to start a nasty rumor. Where is your info coming from? The Governor's statement was pretty straight forward that he was calling for state employees and teachers to be furloughed three days prior to Dec 31st. The state will cut the funding for their portion of the teachers' salaries and it is up to each district how to handle. Where are you getting info about 2nd semester is the real question.

Submitted by wildcat on Fri, 07/24/2009 - 10:35am.

A Fayette County teacher told me and that teacher heard it from a person affiliated with PAGE. I don't think anyone is trying to "start a nasty rumor," however, if it is going to come to pass then we need to know so that we can plan accordingly (fiscally speaking). Well, perhaps "we" don't, or you in particular won't be affected and therefore don't need to plan accordingly, one should never speak for all, right? But, I do need to plan and so do several of my friends and with that in mind, we would like to have some verification (if anyone has any)to this and we all sincerely hope that it is nothing more than a nasty rumor.

Submitted by allegedteacher on Sat, 07/25/2009 - 3:22pm.

Rumors, nasty or otherwise, would not be floating about if the FCBOE kept its teachers informed. Instead, we are left to guess our fates until the last minute...and anyone who inquires or complains is not a "team player" or not adequately "dedicated."

Submitted by fc1989 on Sun, 07/26/2009 - 12:23pm.

When should the FCBOE have told you you were going to be furloughed? Before the Govenor annouced it. Who knew then? If PAGE has information from someone in the state government they should tell the board and the teachers. What should the board tell the with a lot of the cuts in the past year, the state is cramming this down the throats of the local school districts. Not only are the teachers getting furloughed but the govenor is also cutting the education budget 3% in addition to the furloughs probably to match the 5% that all the other agencies will be cut. The board is gulity of not building a reserve fund over the last 10 years when things were economically good. In addition, the board should have been cutting staff when the state started cutting funding back in 2001. That is only looking back and does no good from here. Yes you should remember that at election time but I am not sure what they are hiding from you at this point when most of the crap seems to be running down hill from Atlanta and there is no money in the bank. The state's biggest budget item is education so when state revenue is down so goes the education budget. The school district is unfortunately in a reaction mode....they can only plan for the short term and must take whatever the state tells them.

Submitted by youalldrivemecrazy on Sun, 07/26/2009 - 4:17pm.

The FCBOE still hasn't met about the furloughs. Teachers don't know when the furlough days will occur, which is totally up to the board to decide and could begin as early as August 3rd, and how they will affect teacher monthly pay, which I imagine they will decide within the limits that the state gives.

(Because teachers are paid for 190 days a year, but then they get paid in monthly paychecks of 1/12 of that, if two furlough days occur in the same month, and they cut the pay in that month, it's going to be a pretty big hit all at once. For example, if a teacher makes 50,000 a year, the paycheck hit of two days in one month will be about 1/8 of that check ($526 of a usually $4,176 check), even though it's only 2/3s of the 1.5% cut of the yearly pay. On the other hand, they could spread the cuts out over all of the paychecks August to December, and it would only be about $158 out of each check. Since most people's expenses are monthly rather than yearly, the particulars of how the board will make the cut are hugely important.)

This seems like an urgent enough problem to have called a meeting last week to get the details of the cut to teachers. Instead, the board isn't meeting until the 27 or 28th, despite having known since last year that furloughs could be on the table. (They were mentioned in each teacher's contract for the year. There's no excuse for not having a plan if there was a realistic enough possibility that they put it in the contracts.)

Submitted by Stingerman on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 6:49am.

My Wife works for The Board Of Education and when they are told they will have to take 3 furlough days then it is 3 days without pay!My Wife has already had to take 5 furlough days that had to be used between March and June 30th and just took a 4.5% pay cut starting July 1st.She understands that the tax revenue is not there and understands sacrifices have to be made for the good of the system.These are tough decisions being made by the Governor on down but this is a case of survival and record deficits now.This is making it really tough at our house as I have taken 19% in pay cuts the last year and a half but we will survive and things will get better because I hope they can't get any worse!

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 6:58pm.

We are 49th in SAT scores. What are we going to do? Get worse?

Submitted by youalldrivemecrazy on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 9:20pm.

Statewide scores are pretty bad, but Fayette Co is above the national average. Certainly, the great families and parents in the county are mainly responsible for valuing education, but what happens with the schools does matter.

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 12:30pm.

You don't understand me!

I said: Cut the salaries by 24 hours per year (3 furlough days) but still work the three work days that you would get paid for! You wouldn't be working for nothing, just draw a smaller overall salary!

I fear by next year that numbers of employees will have to be cut and maybe also salaries again!

The banks, insurance companies, auto companies, and construction are going to get most of the federal money. (which will be borrowed or taxes will also go up.)

Tough times coming.

Right now those people who lose their job, if they find another one like it pays 30% les than their previous exact job!

That is why cops and firemen aren't leaving their jobs! The army isn't having much trouble getting signers now either!

Submitted by wildcat on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 10:34am.

I just received an e-mail stating that the 3 days will be non-student days and will have to be taken by Dec 31, 2009.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 10:45am.

I don't get it!

Instead of teachers staying home on staff talk days, why not simply reduce their salary by three days and go on as usual.
The teacher gets the same money either way and the "training" gets done!

Unless they of course are going to get paid for staying at home those three days!

I still think fewer teachers (selected) is a better answer. That way the benefits also are saved!

I assume the teacher will still have the benefits even if they don't work those three days.

Submitted by FayetteFlyer on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 8:44am.

with allegedteacher. What difference does this make when GA public schools have historically been at the bottom in virtually all categories. How much lower can graduation rates fall? There are far more crucial problems with this educational system than how many school days kids have.

Submitted by wildcat on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 6:10am.

Gee, let's see.....4.5% pay cut, TRS is going to take 2.5% more and 3 furloughed days. Woohoo!! Let the fun begin as we all scramble to pick up a 2nd job. I imagine the competition will be tough. I wonder when these three days will take place....teacher work days or school days?

Submitted by allegedteacher on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 7:12am.

Be assured the three furloughed days will eat up the teacher work days. As all teachers are aware, planning is not required to provide quality educational experiences. Georgia is working very hard to be at rock bottom of education in the U.S.

Submitted by youalldrivemecrazy on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 1:01pm.


Do you enjoy working without compensation?

Yes, the furlough involves a pay cut, but, at least in theory, it also involves working three fewer days for three fewer days' pay.

Teachers' contracts are based on a 190 days of pay. If the state is only going to pay for 187 days, I think many teachers would prefer to do the planning or grading that they probably need to do to still be effective from their homes, at least, rather than reporting and working as usual and simply taking an additional 1.6% pay cut.

Most Fayette County teachers seem very dedicated and seem to understand the bleak economic picture overall, but that doesn't mean the board should deliberately take advantage by trying to require them to work days that they won't be paid for.

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 4:11pm.

No, I don't enjoy not working or not getting paid.
But I did have to several times during my career. Same reasons as are occuring now---politicians and recessions.

I either kept my job at lower wages or found another one.

I'm sorry but you sound similar to a union leader's argument rather than a professional teacher of children! Can you do both?

I know the profession is now a way to earn a living as a second income usually for the family, but teachers weren't alway able to live in such places as Fayette County in mansions.

It was a dedication!

Submitted by allegedteacher on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 9:57am.

You sure know loads about teachers. Will you kindly hook me up with the mansion-owning program for FC teachers? My colleagues and I would like to join that group, because many of us use our paychecks to PAY OUR BILLS, not to supplement hubby's income. You state, "I know the profession is now a way to learn a living as a second income..." Do you base this knowledge on scientific data or your native intelligence? If it is on the latter, then I can dismiss this disagreement on the basis of uninformed misogyny and outmoded thinking. By the way, one can be dedicated to a profession and expect to earn a sustainable income; the two are not mutually exclusive.

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 12:39pm.

The old "beyond your means" might apply here, I don't know.

One doesn't need statistics (mostly faked) or native intelligence to know what has been happening to us for several years now.

Buy too much, borrow too much (too many bills) eat too well, drink too wll, dress too well, vacation too well, and too many toys.
I couldn't do much of any of that for the first 20 years of my career.

Of course my wife didn't work until the kids were in school and then for little.

Submitted by allegedteacher on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 3:40pm.

I agree that most FC teachers are very dedicated; I am one of them. But make no mistake; I pay my bills with the salary I earn from teaching. And, yes, I understand we are living in difficult economic times. So, my colleagues and I are willing to work for less pay, but we do not like it and we will complain about it. It is not for lack of gratitude for having a job that we complain; it is EXACTLY for the reason stated by entreat the board to NOT take advantage.

Submitted by youalldrivemecrazy on Wed, 07/22/2009 - 6:01pm.


I think Fayette County teacher generally do a lot of work beyond their contract days and contract years. I think a high percentage of FC teachers will do schoolwork on these furlough days. The majority of our teachers seem to regard their teaching jobs as pretty desirable as teaching goes, and they want to make sure that they do a good job, even if it means working when they aren't getting paid. I think Fayette County taxpayers are already getting that professionalism from the teacher returning to teach this year, especially when you consider that they all came back after 4.5% pay cuts.

But if Fayette County wants to retain these folks, they have to work at treating their teachers well relative to other systems. And officially delivering your message of "just show up and work without getting paid for it" is going to be a morale buster. The expectations for contracts and pay are different in public school teaching than they are in private business, for better or worse, and to compare to a system where individuals negotiate compensation packages from their employers and then are expected to accept greater flexibility in work load and future pay just doesn't work that well.

I also think that your wrong about the economic breakdown of who FC teachers are, but that's for another day.

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