The Atlanta Public School Board of Education will be meeting this coming Monday with the Committee of the Whole beginning at 2 p.m., the Community Meeting starting at 6 p.m. and the Legislative Session beginning at 7 p.m.
Time for some questions based on the information provided for the meeting at BoardDocs.
Questions for Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Karen Waldon
- Maximum class size was a significant concern during the recent budget discussions and the administration committed to maintaining class sizes at no larger than 24 for Elementary and Middle Schools and no more than 30 for High School. What is the status of “class size leveling” and are there any critical needs that are not yet resolved?
Questions for Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Gray – based on Personnel Gains & Losses Report (PG&L)
- As a follow-up to last month’s meeting, the BOE requested that the unfilled teaching positions be categorized by elementary, middle and high school. What is the status of unfilled positions for the following areas:
a. Number of open kindergarten teachers and paraprofessionals
b. Number of open elementary school teachers
c. Number of open elementary school EIP teachers – also, what is the final budgeted number of EIP or “EIP like” teachers in both the General and Special Revenue Fund?
d. Number of open middle school teachers budgeted for in Direct Instruction (1200)
e. Number of other open middle school teachers or specialists
f. Number of open high school teachers budgeted for in Direct Instruction (1200)
g. Number of other open high school teachers or specialists
A chart with the number of open certified positions by type of positions and school level would be very helpful.
- The PG&L Report shows that there were 20 certified personnel losses. Of the 20, 13 show a termination date that was prior to the last BOE meeting in August (many in May 2013). Why is there such a delay in reporting this information to the BOE?
- Based on the last couple of months of PG&L Reports, the HR function restructuring under Project Thrive appears nearly complete. How many additional HR positions remain open at this time?
- Do you have a preliminary assessment of the impact of the HR restructuring at this time?
- As a follow-up to last month, Project Thrive was approved based upon the cost savings of transferring certain positions from C&I to HR. However, since the approval of Project Thrive, the PG&L Report does not show any positions abolished in C&I. Why not?
- There are 25 Parent Liaison positions that were filled. Where are these positions reflected in the FY14 budget?
- The PG&L Report recommends the creation of a new position in C&I – Director of Student Engagement and Behavioral Support. Given the budget constraints in FY14, is there compensating abolishment of a position as well? Or is this an incremental position to the budgeted staffing approved by the BOE in July?
Questions for Chief Financial Officer Chuck Burbridge – [Note – many of these questions were raised in advance of last month’s meeting, but were not answered.]
- In prior meetings, you indicated that the APS books were closed on August 12.
a. When will the actual results for FY13 be provided to the BOE?
b. Will Finance prepare an actual to budgeted comparison that is consistent with the format presented at the time the FY13 budget was approved?
- A significant component of the cost savings in the FY14 budget is the $5.9 million in Vacancy Management.
a. What steps are in place to monitor savings from Vacancy Management?
b. What reports will Finance provide to the BOE to show the level of savings and what positions are not being filled?
- The FY14 budget calls for significant savings from a reduction in cost for substitute teachers.
a. What steps are in place to monitor the use of substitute teachers?
b. How has the cost savings component been communicated to Principal’s who are the primary users of substitute teachers?
c. Are the Principals allocated a budget for substitutes or are there other control mechanisms in place?
- Last year shortly after a FY13 budget was approved, the budget had to be amended to add approximately $6 million in additional appropriations from the previous year.
a. Should we expect a similar amount this year?
b. If so, what recommendations does the administration have to cover these additional costs so that the deficit that is already at $25 million does not grow larger?
- In the financial report issued in August, we learned that the ending General Fund balance was approximately $10 million higher than previously reported. Why was this information not provided to the Budget Commission or the Board of Education in advance of approval of the FY14 budget in July?
Questions for Deputy Superintendent of Operations Larry Hoskins
Below is the relevant information contained in the Construction Status Report.
- Why publish 21 pages of information that includes projects going back to 1998 and which we have to dig through to find out what is relevant for the upcoming meeting?
- For the Mary Lin, Rivers, Springdale Park and Sylvan projects for which Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) contracts were approved in July, why has the budgeted amount not been changed to the actual price of the contract?
- Can the administration provide a brief explanation as to why the Rivers and Sylvan project contracts came in at 19.5% and 16.7% over the original estimated budgets?
- The actual contract for the Springdale Park came in at $800k less than budgeted. Was the project scaled back in any way?
- For the Bunche project which is estimated to start in 45 days, are there any indications that the current budget of $24 million will be exceeded?
- For the new projects we are seeing this month – Brandon Primary, Kimberly and Young – the initial budgets are $9 or $10 million – should these amounts be considered as simply “placeholders”, or are they reasonable estimates of the upper limit on what the projects will cost?
- Follow up on question presented last month – Per the Transportation Services website and several public statements, the Transportation Services Department has 400+ buses in the fleet. However, there are only 274 bus drivers in the FY14 budget. While it is understandable that a certain number of spare buses be available, why are there 125+ more buses than certified bus drivers?
Questions for Associate Superintendent Steven Smith – [Note – all questions below were asked in advance of the August BOE meeting, none were answered at that time.]
- In the July 2013 Special Personnel Gains and Losses Report, it was announced that the Executive Director of Communications Steven Alford was resigning with an effective date of September 30. Is Mr. Alford still on the payroll or has his resignation become effective prior to the date reported in the Gains and Losses Report?
- Per the APS website, Mikkal Hart Murunga currently is listed as both the Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs and the Executive Director of Communications.
a. Ms. Murunga’s appointment to the dual role of Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs has not been presented in the Personnel Gains and Losses Report. Is the dual role anticipated to be permanent? If so, was Ms. Murunga’s compensation changed?
b. The August Personnel Gains and Losses Report presents a reclassification of the Executive Director of Communications to Director of Public Relations with a PMA-9 versus the prior PMA-10. Is the current position of Executive Director of Communications being abolished?
c. Are the External Affairs and Communications Departments being reorganized from two departments to one under the management of Ms. Murunga?
As you can see, there are no “trick questions” – just simple requests for information based on the documents published or previous administration commitments.
And as I noted last month, if the administration would simply provide the BOE brief answers in writing, it is unlikely that there would be any controversy over the answers. However, the BOE would be better informed and the administration would be more transparent in its dealings with the BOE and the public.
Look forward to seeing everyone at the meeting on Monday.
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