Summary of Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Meeting – August 12, 2013

The following is a summary of the key items considered and the decisions made at the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education meeting held yesterday. For a more detailed transcript of the meeting, see Talk-Up APS here. In addition, newspaper articles on key topics are linked below.

Atlanta Classical Academy (ACA) – The ACA charter petition was approved unanimously over the negative recommendation of Superintendent Davis. Both the Superintendent and the BOE recognized that the issue of the unfunded pension was a problem that must be dealt with. However, in general, the BOE did not believe it was appropriate to deny the ACA charter petition on those grounds. See more by Mark Niesse at the AJC here.

Pension Plan Liability – As part of the discussion on ACA, Superintendent Davis indicated that the administration was considering a number of alternatives on how to deal with the over $500 million pension liability. This included the potential for issuing a bond to cover the underfunded amount or potential legislative changes. All agreed that the issue must be resolved in the near future.

Cost of Charter Conversion Versus Charter Start-Up – There was a brief discussion on the difference between the costs of funding a charter conversion versus a start-up charter. This was brought up as both Toomer and Centennial Place elementary schools are being considered for conversion charters in October. The administration argued that it costs APS less to grant a conversion charter versus a start-up charter. [Comment – the argument that this is the case was not convincing.]

Hind Feet Montessori Charter Petition – The Hinds Feet Montessori charter petition was deferred to the next meeting at the request of the filer.

FYU13 Financial Forecast – The final financial forecast for FY13 indicates that the General Fund balance will be $85.2 million, an increase of $4.3 million over the FY12 balance. Revenues will come in at $577.6 million, $21.8 million over the FY13 budget and expenditures will be $573.3 million, $6.4 million higher than the FY13 original budget. See slide presentation here.

Success of First Day Activities – Both the administration and the BOE considered the implementation of the first day of school planning to have been a success. The key was the registration of an additional 5,000 students prior to the first day as compared to last year. Additionally, a command center was established to quickly address issues as they arose. See slide presentation here.

Open Teacher Positions – A total of 298 teachers were hired and there are still 94 teaching positions to be filled. The breakdown between the school levels was not available.

Mold Issues – Mold issues at DH Stanton and Washington High School were discussed. The BOE authorized the development of a plan to remediate the problems quickly. The administration noted that the problems are due to the excessive rain, however, in certain cases there are underlying structural problems that may have to be dealt with.

Payroll Department Restructuring – The BOE approved the abolishment of six payroll position and the creation of five new ones. [Comment – a clear answer as to why the change is cost neutral was not given.]

Transfer of General Funds to Lottery Fund – The BOE approved a $300 thousand transfer of General Funds to the Pre-K Lottery Fund. In the last two years, while the funding for this program has come down, the services provided by APS has remained the same. In FY12, certain expenses were transferred to the General Fund. For FY13, the negative fund balance is being replenished with the approved fund transfer. CFO Burbridge indicated that a similar occurrence should not happen in FY14.

Selection of Superintendent Search Firm – The BOE selected Atlanta-based BoardWalk Consulting and Philadelphia-based Diversified Search to handle the search for the new superintendent. See more by Mark Niesse at the AJC here. [Comment – Korn/Ferry International was also interviewed to conduct the search.]

Additionally, it appeared to me that many more questions were asked by the BOE as each item was brought up for consideration. As readers of this blog know, I listed a number of questions (here) that I thought should be answered in advance of the BOE meeting. Many, but not all, were addressed. It is a step in the right direction.

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