Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday – time for some questions & observations [Updated]

Update – a recommendation on combining Coan and King Middle Schools has bee added to the agenda. Also, the FY Budget has been pulled from the agenda. To see more on each of these, see here.

The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education will meet this coming Monday. The agenda and exhibits can be found at BoardDoc’s here. Based on a review of the agenda, the following are some questions that should be addressed:

Financial Update – Chuck Burbridge, CFO

  1. It was recently indicated that the FY14 budget would be in balance without the use of general fund reserves and that this was primarily a result of higher than budgeted revenues. Can you detail out a comparison of the Approved Budget revenues and the revised forecast?
  2. The expenditure forecast for FY14 is consistent in total with the expenditures budgeted. Can you present a detailed forecast of FY14 expenditures in comparison to both the Approved and Amended Budget for the period? The presentation should be consistent with the format used at the time the budget was adopted.

Construction Status Update – there is none scheduled and there has not been an update in months. With a number of major projects underway or contemplated, it is strange that no updates are being given. While a Construction Status Report is attached as an exhibit to the agenda, it is clear that budgetary numbers are out of date. To avoid a similar lack of oversight we saw in prior projects, the Board should request a detailed update from Operations on existing and contemplated construction projects.

Authorization to Revise Policy JCDAF Use of Electronic Devices by Students (First Reading) – no questions

Authorization to Adopt Calendars for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 School Years – no questions

Recommendation to Approve a Zone Change for Inman Middle School – no questions

Authorization to Abolish One (1) Educational Telecommunication Specialist Position, Create One (1) Media Production Specialist Position and Execute a Transition Plan – this resolution appears to be straightforward and indicates the PMA (salary level) for the old and new positions will be the same. However, we have been fooled in the past. So the question that remains,

  1. Is it contemplated that this change will result in an increase in compensation?
  2. If it is determined in the future that an increase in salary was given for the new position as compared to the old position, please provide an update on that at the next Board meeting.

Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishments – The following are items of note and a couple of questions.

  1. There are 37 certified personnel losses – mostly teachers. There is no indication that any of them are for non-renewal and all the positions have a termination date at the end of the school year.
  2. There are four custodians that are leaving. In a recent Budget Committee meeting, it was indicated that the custodians would not be replaced and the positions would be contracted out over time. However, the budgeted positions for custodians remained the same in the budget – 161 – for both FY14 and FY15. Will the positions vacated by the custodians be replaced or outsourced?
  3. In the IT Policy and Governance department, the Executive Director for IT Applications position is being reclassified to the Executive Director for IT Strategy and Planning. Is there any contemplated change in the salary for the position?

Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract for Pest Control Services – no questions on this specific contract, however, it raises a couple of question on the current budget.

  1. In a recent Budget Committee meeting it was indicated that the actual cost of pest control services were coming down. The cost of this item is contained in the Grounds and Pest Control department. Given that the pest control is staying the same or going down slightly, why is the cost of grounds maintenance increasing by approximately $380 thousand or 18%?
  2. With such a dramatic one year increase in cost, shouldn’t the contract be put out for bid?

Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract for Design Build Services for School Track, Field and Associated Improvements –

  1. The contract calls for the expenditure of $5 million and provides the superintendent with the option to renew for an additional four years. Given the size of the total cost of the contract, not only for one year, but over the course of five years, what are the specific plans for this cost?
  2. In addition, the Board should request that it be informed at the time that the superintendent is exercising its option to renew for another year and the specifics of the spending for that year as well. Note – this should be the case with all contracts that contain renewal options.

Authorization to Transfer Funds for Charter Schools – this resolution is likely the result of funds being under-budgeted for the year. The final determination on charter school funding is based on QBE reports submitted to the GA DOE.

Adoption of the FY 2015 General Fund Budget – we will see if this remains on the agenda. There appears to be some discussions in the background that could delay it. My hope is that the Board passes the budget as is and then adds certain restrictions on spending until the new superintended reviews the numbers.

Authorization for the Atlanta Board Education to Consent to Abating Outstanding Fulton County Taxes on 630 Kennedy Street – no questions

Authorization to Renew Agreement with Early Learning Property Management, Inc. for the former Sylvan Hills Elementary School Property – no questions

Authorization to Extend the Loan of the Portrait of Scarlett O’Hara to the Margaret Mitchell House – no questions

Authorization to Amend and Extend the Lease Agreement with Wesley International Academy, Inc. at the Former Cook Elementary School Property – no questions

Resolution Requesting Class Size Exemptions for 2014-15 – the average class size waivers requested are shown in the table below.

Grades(s) Subject(s) FY 2014-15 Class Size Using Exemptions as Needed State Maximum Request to Exceed State Maximum by: APS FY 2013-14  Class Size Maximums
Regular KindergartenWith Full-Time Paraprofessional 25 1:20 1 to 5 25
Regular Grades 1-3No Paraprofessional 26 1:21 1 to 5 26
Grades 4-5English, Math, Science, Social Studies 33 1:28 1 to 5 33
Grades 6-8English, Math, Science, Social Studies 33 1:28 1 to 5 33
Grades 9-12English, Math, Science, Social Studies 35 1:32 1 to 3 35
Grades 7-8CTAE Courses 33 1:33 1 to 5 33
Grades9-12CTAE CoursesCTAE Lab Courses 3528 1:351:28 1 to 51 to 5 3528

Records Retention Schedule Adoption – no questions

In addition to the items noted above, there are exhibits for the Board and Senior Cabinet Travel Reports, financial information through February (the information is fairly useless as it presents YTD actuals in comparison to the budget versus the annual forecast for FY14). Additionally, there is an exhibit I have not seen before – Emergency Purchases – which details out $224 thousand for a “Next Generation Firewall equipment/Security device”. No other information is provided.

That is all for now, however, the agenda and the exhibits often change between now and the time the meeting starts. I will keep checking for updates.

And, the vote to approve Meria Carstarphen as the next superintendent is not on the agenda – but I anticipate this item will be added.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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