Atlanta Public School Board of Education meeting on Monday – time for some questions and comments [Updated]

May 30, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education will meet this coming Monday. The following are the items on the published agenda. Check back over the weekend as the attachments provided often change in the days leading up to the meeting. See here for the agenda and the detailed attachments.

Work Session Presentations

  • Public Broadcasting Atlanta Presentation– Digital Conversion – Steve Smith
  • Career Academy Status – Dr. Alexis Kirijan, Chief Strategy & Development Officer
  • Resolution of Beltline Debt – Superintendent Erroll Davis & CFO Chuck Burbridge – The Beltline is delinquent on paying APS over $8 million. The resolution of this outstanding amount has been on Davis’ radar screen for some time.
  • Financial Update – CFO Chuck Burbridge – the financials are here – however, as I have noted before, the presentation is not very informative. I anticipate that Burbridge will confirm that the revenues and expenditures will be balanced and there will not be any use of General Fund reserves in FY14.

Board Action Items:

Authorization to Abolish and Create Positions within the Procurement Department and Execute a Transition Plan – Two Assistant Procurement positions being abolished (one filled & one vacant and replaced with one Procurement Specialist.

Comment – this should result in a cost savings versus the budget, but we have seen prior restructurings that should have saved money, but did not.

Report No. 13/14-1729Recommendation to Deny the Start-up Charter School Petition for Hinds Feet Montessori School– The initial charter petition was returned for more information last year along with five other petitions. Three of the charter petitions were withdrawn and the Atlanta Classical Academy was subsequently approved. The Hinds Feet Montessori School petition is now being declined as the petition was reviewed again comprehensively and still “lacks viable educational plans, leadership capacity, a lack of strong board governance, sound financial planning and insufficient strategies for recruiting qualified and experienced teachers”.

Comment – The APS Office of Innovation that is run by Allen Mueller has consistently done a very thorough job of assessing charter school petitions and charter school officials consistently say that the assessments are fair and balanced. There is no reason to doubt that this is the case now.

Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassification and Abolishments – Some of the more notable items on the Report are:

  • Karen Waldon, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction has officially announced her retirement. This is a key position that the new superintendent will have to fill as quickly as possible.
  • Twenty-one teachers have announced their departure – this number sounds low, but if it is correct, this is good news as the teacher turnover appears to be coming down.
  • [Added] Assistant Superintendent for Student Services John O’Conner is resigning and taking a position elsewhere.
  • Aleigha Henderson-Rosser is being promoted to Executive Director of IT
  • There are a large number of positions are being abolished which were identified in last month’s RIF of 130 net positions due primarily to reductions in Federal funding (see details here). The abolishments also include the Media Paraprofessional positions that raised some controversy in a prior Budget Commission meeting (see here)– we may see more discussion on this on Monday.
  • I anticipate that there may be additional principal hiring announcements in an updated report that will come out later.

Atlanta Board of Education General Employees Pension Plan Amended Amortization Calculation Resolution (see revised amortization table here) – The Pension Liability Task Force is recommending to the Board that a revised pension liability payment schedule be adopted as a short-term measure. The Resolution extends the time to reach full funding from 2026 to 2030. As a result of the extension, the cost to fully fund the plan increases by approximately $30 million on a net present value basis.

Comment – this is a reasonable stop-gap measure as the prior payment schedule would have impacted current direct instruction funding by an additional $55 million over the next five years. It is anticipated that the Pension Liability Task Force (upon which I serve) will look at longer term resolutions for the over $530 million pension liability and make additional recommendations to the Board.

Report No. 13/14-5130Workers’ Compensation Settlements – $95 thousand – APS self-insures for Worker’s Comp and the two claim settlements on the agenda appear to be reasonable.

Final Approval of the Debt Service Budget for FY 2015 – $2.0 million, same as last year

Report No. 13/14-1159Adoption of the Capital Projects Budget for FY 2015 – $11.1 million

Comment – As in the prior presentation, there is no explanation or detail of what the $11.1 million is being spent on. This is especially troubling as there is an additional $8.2 million for technology spending, which is on top of the $33 million (16.4% increase over FY14) for IT in the GF budget.

Adoption of FY 2015 Special Revenue Budget – $122.6 million – the SRF budget was reviewed by the Budget Commission. For more detail on this, see here.

Authorization to Enter into and Execute Contracts to Provide a Bank of Standards-based Assessment Items – $900,000 – That the superintendent be authorized to enter into and execute contracts with Amplify Insight and Riverside Publishing Company to provide a bank of standards-based assessment items… to be used in an online instructional management system.

Comment – this contract will be paid for out of the Special Revenue Fund Race to the Top account. As the assessment of teachers is a hot issue, it would be appropriate for the administration to provide a complete review of the assessment process for teachers and a status update on how the assessment process is working within the system.

Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide Curriculum and Assessment Design for D.M. Therrell School of Health Science & Research – $180,000Authentic Education (AE) will provide curriculum and assessment design services for four subject areas, which will include: development of program and course maps, development of end-of-course assessments, unit design, and comprehensive project planning, management, and communication.

Comment – this purchase is also being funded out of SRF Race to the Top moneys. [Added] I am told that this contract will provide a capability that does not exist within the organization. It also appears as if it is being tested, and if it works, it can then be expanded to other sites. It is interesting to note that the internal “experts” were unable to provide this type of comprehensive “Curriculum and Assessment Design” for the 248 students in the program. The cost of the contract is $725 per student – why can’t this be done internally with the staff on board and at no additional cost?

Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Single Source Contract to Develop Additional Analytical Dashboards in the Enterprise Data Warehouse System – $145,000 – to enter into and execute a contract with Public Consulting Group to develop analytical dashboards and provide ongoing support and maintenance of the Enterprise Data Warehouse.

Comment – typically this type of investment provides a substantial amount of information that can be used to drive current and future decisions. However, the key to the successful implementation of “dashboards” is understanding in advance what information is critical for the daily management of the system.

Authorization to Merge Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sammye E. Coan Middle Schools and Modify the School Attendance Zone Boundaries (Final Read) – Proposal that the Coan Middle School close and merge with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Students in the newly formed middle school will be located at the original Coan Middle School facility for two years while the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School campus is renovated.

Comment – while this proposal has been the subject of debate and public forums, the merger will result in a more efficient school with added resources. The merger makes sense and the children should benefit from it.

In Re: Carolyn Broughton – In executive sessions the Board will consider the Hearing Officer’s recommendation in the civil service appeal filed by Carolyn Broughton.

Report No. 13/14-1157Authorization to Continue Contract Agreement with Project Grad Atlanta – $391,170 – The reason given for recommending approval is “Project GRAD Atlanta partners with Atlanta Public Schools’ strategy to increase the graduation rate by assuring that all schools develop the capacity to provide high quality instruction to ensure success for every child.”

Comment – the reason given is uninformative boilerplate language and the justification could be used to justify the continuation of any program. Why can’t APS provide a clear and measurable set of objectives for the program and then also substantiate its past accomplishments? While in substance I do not have an issue with the program, I have very little comfort that it is accomplishing a lot – if it did, they would tell us all about it.

Report No. 13/14-1161Authorization to Enter into and Execute Contracts for Asbestos and Lead Based Paint Abatement and Mold Remediation Services, Re-bid – $2.35 millioncontracts with A Certified Clean Environmental, LLC, American Property Restoration, Corporate Environment Risk Management (CERM), EnviroMaster, Inc.,  Hibernia Enterprises, Inc., Morley Environmental Inc., Southern Environmental Services, Inc. and Winter Construction Group to provide asbestos and lead-based paint abatement and mold remediation services. These contracts shall be for one (1) year with (4) one-year available options to be exercised at the discretion of the superintendent. 

Other Board Action Items – no comments or questions:

Other Information Provided

  • Board Travel Report
  • Senior Cabinet Travel Report
  • Construction Status Report June 1, 2014 – I will continue to note that, while a number of major construction projects are either underway or being considered, Operations has not made a formal presentation to the Board on the status of these projects for over six months. In the event another project blows up – like the NAHS project did – the Board will not have any cover regarding its due diligence on the construction projects. The prior Board did not keep track of what was happening at NAHS and the current Board appears to be following that precedent.

The attachments and details provided often change or are updated in advance of the meeting. I will update this post as new information becomes available.

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Round-Up of APS Headlines from the Past Week (a little late)

May 27, 2014

APS News 

***Board of Education Committee Meetings and Public Forums

  • Pension Fund Task Force held – Approved sending full Board a recommendation that the pension liability payment schedule be revised pending making a recommendation for a longer term resolution. 

*** Other APS News

State School Superintendent Race

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Superintendent Davis reminisces on his time at APS

May 22, 2014

The interviewed Atlanta Public School Superintendent Davis as he prepares to retire at the end of June. He will be replaced by Dr. Meria Carstarphen who formerly served as superintendent in Austin and St. Paul.

Per the article (see here) Davis,

 …considers the past months of 2014 to be among the best of his three-year tenure, which began in July 2011. “We had a [school] board transition [this year]… Six out of the nine board members are new. They are young, energetic [and] enthusiastic. They’re fun to work with. They truly do focus on children, which is very pleasant. They have not yet been beaten down with the politics of education, so that’s refreshing.”

“[Carstarphen] certainly knows what’s she’s doing,” Davis said. “She has been successful. I hope she’ll be as successful or more successful here.” He said the biggest challenge of the school year was strategically planning for the district with limited resources and demanding constituencies, which Davis admitted was not unique to just this year or this school system.

I think it is interesting to note that Davis refers to the “politics of education” in contrast to a “focus on children”. My sense is that this is consistent with Carstarphen’s comment about how focusing on “adult issues” often interferes with the main priority of educating children.

For those of you who are fighting for power and influence at the expense of improving educational outcomes – that is two superintendents in a row issuing a veiled – but nevertheless stinging indictment of the upside down priorities that are often pursued by the adults. As I have said in the past, analyze the issue in terms of what will result in the best educational outcome – and put your ideologies and selfish interests aside.

The same can be said of an administration that has consistently placed its own interests (ever-growing cost of a grossly inefficient administration) ahead of the interests of their educational mandate. If the focus were to change towards educational priorities, it is likely that many of the “adult issues” would fade away.

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GA State School Superintendent election – both primaries result in runoff

May 21, 2014

The hotly contested primary races in both parties for the GA Department of Education School Superintendent were partially decided and will both head to a runoff between the top two candidates in each party.

On the Republican side nine candidates vied for the position and the top two were Mike Buck with 19.6% of the vote and Richard Woods with 16.9% of the vote. Buck currently serves as the Chief Academic Officer for the GA DOE and previously served as an Assistant Superintendent and as a high school principal.  Woods currently is a small business owner and previously served as a school principal, teacher and coach.

On the Democrats side six candidates were in the race and Valerie Wilson (31.9%) and Alisha Thomas Morgan (26.4%) far outpaced the rest of the field. The next closest candidate had 18.7% and it dropped quickly from there.

While statewide turnout was low with only 18.7% of registered voters showing up at the polls, the vote totals may be an indication of things to come. The highest turnout was for the Senate race with 890 thousand total votes. The State Superintendent race had a fairly large undervote as only 727 thousand cast ballots in both party primaries. However, the Republican voters showed up and outpaced the Democrats by two to one.

For the detailed results on all the primary elections yesterday, see statewide results here and Fulton County results here.

The runoff election will be held on July 22, 2014.

The following is some brief background on each of the candidates in the upcoming runoff:

Mike Buck (R) (campaign website) – currently serves as the GA Chief Academic Officer and previously served as Rome City Schools Assistant Superintendent and Rome High School Principal. On his campaign website Buck states,

I support local control and flexibility for school districts and communities that have demonstrated their commitment to higher accountability for student achievement in exchange for greater flexibility from Title 20 (Georgia law that governs education) and the accompanying state board of education guidelines and rules. 

I am committed to ensuring that our [teacher and leader] evaluation system is firm, fair, and consistent and ultimately leads to enhanced student achievement.

Parents have the right to choose public school, including charter schools; home school, or private school as the education option for their children. 

Richard Woods (R) – He has worked for within the Irwin County School System for over twenty-two years and has served as a social studies teacher and coach. In 2002 he was promoted to administrative leadership and, among other positions, served as an elementary school principal.For several years, he worked as the purchasing agent for an industrial laser company and currently serves as the founder and owner of a small business. On his campaign website, Wood lists his policy goals,

  •  End unnecessary data collection, meaningless paperwork, repetitive documentation.
  • Be wary of accepting any policy or legislation that is approved or sponsored by the federal government.
  • Protect independence and autonomy of our home and private school institutions.
  • End the practice of unfunded mandates – if we can’t afford it, we don’t need it!
  • Develop a statewide purchasing consortium for the purpose of using large purchasing power to lower cost.
  • A complete audit of the Georgia Department of Education should be performed to remove costly and unnecessary regulation.
  • Use block grant funding to offer more financial flexibility to local school system.

Valarie Wilson (D) (campaign website) – She currently serves as Executive Director of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Inc. In 2002 she began serving on the school board of the City Schools of Decatur and served as Board Chair from 2005-2011. In 2009 she joined the Georgia School Boards Association and served as its president in 2012-2013 and spoke out against Amendment 1 that created State charter schools. Previously she served as Director of the Human Services Department in Fulton County and as Director of Fulton County’s Office of Aging. On her campaign website, Wilson list her policy priorities as,

Oppose Privatization – “I’m very troubled by the movement to sell our schools to private interests. I believe all schools, including non-profit charter schools, have the potential to facilitate needed reforms and develop new teaching methods. But I oppose for-profit charter schools because they lack accountability and stability. And…I oppose vouchers. They don’t reach the kids who are most in need—they usually aren’t nearly large enough to cover tuition.”

Support Common Core – “The Common Core is a set of strong standards that will help our students to compete in the global labor market. Legislators’ efforts to replace these evidence-based standards with home-grown guidelines will hurt our students and could contribute to an exodus of educators from the public system.”

Defend Local Control – “The school boards were elected by local communities. They know our children best. Yet their hands are being tied by legislators and other bodies so they can’t make decisions based on what they know. As state superintendent, I’ll help to give schools back to their communities.”

Alisha Thomas Morgan (D) (campaign website) – She currently serves in the Georgia House of Representatives where she sits on the Education, Appropriations and Health & Human Services committees, and also serves as Vice Chair of the Innovation Subcommittee on Education. In this position, she supported Amendment 1 (the constitutional amendment that reestablished the Georgia Charter School Commission in 2012); co-sponsored the state’s new Teacher and Leader evaluation law that better measures the effectiveness of educators; is leading the effort to end the state’s “Last In, First Out” hiring practice for new teachers; and sponsored a school transferring law allowing parents to choose a public school within their school district based on the best interest of their child. Her campaign website lists additional policy priorities,

  • Implementing a strong teacher evaluation system that gives educators clear and immediate feedback to improve their teaching
  • Create partnerships with the faith, civic, and corporate communities that will enhance educational opportunities for educators and students
  • Build relationships with private and non-profit entities to provide training for school and district leaders in the areas of human capital and leadership.
  • Encouraging the use of data driven decisions that allow education professionals the opportunity to think outside the box to meet the needs…for all students
  • Equipping every Georgia public school with state-of-the-art technology to provide students with individualized learning opportunities. 
  • Common Core[She] believes that staying-the-course with the higher standards is the right thing to do for Georgia…
  • Parent Choice – She is a supporter of virtual education, public charters, and is the author of the state’s law that allows parents to choose a public school within the school district that best meets the needs of their child.… Morgan believes that all options should be on the table for parents and students, enabling them to choose the approach to education that best meets their learning styles and individual needs.

Also, a couple of other quick notes on the primary election:

  • Brenda J. Muhammad, who served on the APS Board of Education for 14 years, ran in the Fulton County Commissioner race for District 5 and secured a position in a runoff with Marvin Arrington, Jr. In addition, former APS BOE candidate Dell Byrd was in this race, but finished a distant third.
  • Beth Beskin, who has presented her views to the APS Board of Education in public comment on several occasions, finished at the top of her primary for the District 54 GA House race, but missed topping the 50% mark by only four votes. Unless something changes in a recount, she will be heading to a runoff in July against John McCloskey who received 30.3% of the votes.
  • Perennial candidate Eddie Lee Brewster, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the APS Board of Education this past November, was also unsuccessful in his bid for the District 4 Fulton County Commission seat. His opponent received 71% of the vote.

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Round-Up of APS Headlines from the Past Week

May 17, 2014

APS News

***Superintendent Carstarphen’s Incoming Administration

***Therrell High School Shooting Incident

***Board of Education Committee Meetings and Public Forums

  • Charter School Task Force meeting held – meeting resulted in establishing a working group to establish timeframe for future meetings.
  • APS Budget Commission meets to review proposed salary increases, the Special Revenue Fund Budget – Financial Deconstruction
  • Review of the Atlanta Public School FY15 Special Revenue Fund Budget – Financial Deconstruction
  • District 5 Town Hall Meeting – May 15th – 6-8 p.m. – BOE members Steven Lee & Jason Esteves – Towns Elementary, 760 Bolton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30331
  • Washington High School Cluster Collaborative – discussions on best educational practices – Monday, May 19, 2014 – 5:00- 7:00 p.m. – CLL
  • District 2 Town Hall Meeting – May 21th – 6-8 p.m. – BOE members Byron Amos & Courtney English – Brown Middle School 765 Peeples Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30310
  • Pension Fund Task Force – May 22, 2014 – 4:00 p.m. – CLL

*** Other APS News

Non-APS News and Opinion of Interest

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Review of the Atlanta Public School FY15 Special Revenue Fund Budget

May 16, 2014

As noted in yesterday’s post, the Budget Commission spent some time reviewing the FY15 Special Revenue Fund (SRF) Budget. The following chart presents the major sources of funding. As you can see, the most significant sources are federal funds and the reductions are having a significant impact on the total funds available in the SRF.

FY15 SRF by Source 051614

The following is a brief review of the changes that are shown in the chart above:

  • The Race to the Top program, which was a component of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus program is winding down and will end September 30th. The balance of funds for FY15 is essentially a carryover from prior years.
  • Title I-A & G, which are designated for improving academic achievement is decreasing by $3.8 million. Approximately $427 thousand is the result of decreases in funding for the federal program and the balance is related to lower carry forward amount from previous years.
  • Title II-A-Improving Teacher Quality decreases are almost in their entirety the result of decreases in funding for the federal program.
  • Title VI-B IDEA funding for the Exceptional Children’s program has increased primarily as a result of an increase in students eligible for federal funding. This increase in student eligibility has also increased the funding requirements in the General Fund.
  • Large Private Grants greater than $250 thousand have decreased by $861 thousand – the primary factors are a decrease of $955 thousand in the Gates Teacher Effectiveness Accelerator program that is coming to an end and a decrease of $523 thousand in the GE Math and Science program. These decreases are offset by a $614 thousand increase in the NITV/Bellsouth Clearwire program.

Below is a summary that attempts to categorize the many accounts by the major district functions (see Note at bottom of post).

FY15 SRF by Function 051614

  • Exceptional Children – There is a $2.2 million increase in Title VI funding for the Exceptional Children’s Program. This increase, along with the General Fund increase of $4.2 million amounts to a $6.4 million or 12% increase over FY14. As noted above, this increase is due to increases in qualifying children.
  • Remedial Instruction – The Title I and Title IV-B funds, which are designated for school improvement and for remedial support for economically disadvantaged children, is decreasing by $4.2 million primarily as the result of the balance is related to lower carry forward amount from previous years. The recent announcement of a reduction of approximately 119 teachers is specifically the result of this decrease in funding (see more on this here).
  • Professional Development – Overall, professional development funding is decreasing by $1.9 million and is primarily the result of the Gates Teacher Effectiveness Accelerator Program ending and a reduction in funding for the Federal Title II-A Improving Teacher Quality Program. It is important to note that the vast majority of spending on Professional Development is funded by the SRF and that no additional provisions were made in the General Fund budget for this activity.
  • Reform Programs – The decrease of $5.7 million is almost entirely related to the ending of the Race to the Top program. In addition, the Small Learning Communities grant has ended resulting in a $928 thousand decrease.
  • Charter Schools – The increase in charter schools spending is primarily composed of Federal/State grants that the district earns for starting or implementing charter school formation. This category also includes the 2% administrative fee that charged to charter schools. In addition, there are certain expenditures that are fully reimbursed by the charter schools for one-time services (i.e. temporary bus services to Drew Charter School students while it transitions to a new facility).

In summary, the total reduction in the SRF is related to certain Federal programs ending or a general reduction in the Federal programs. I think it is also fair to say that the federal school reform program funding is at its end and I am not aware of any new direct federal reform programs on the horizon. The one overall concern I have is that the Professional Development dollars have decreased, but there has been no provision to make up the difference in the General Fund. I will assume that the administration has considered this and determined that the decreased level of funding is adequate.

Note – The allocation of the program cost by function is based on my interpretation of the descriptions for the program. The administration has not reviewed my categorization and they may interpret it differently than I do. Additionally, certain grants are accounted for in the SRF, but are also incorporated into the General Fund. These amounts have been previously reviewed as part of the General Fund analysis.

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APS Budget Commission meets to review proposed salary increases, the Special Revenue Fund Budget and other issues [Updated]

May 15, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Budget Commission met yesterday and reviewed a revised proposal for allocating the $15 million salary increase, reviewed the Special Revenue Fund budget for FY15, considered an appeal for additional funding of Gifted Student teachers and reviewed the potential impact on accreditation status as the result of eliminating media paraprofessionals positions.

The following is a brief review of each item considered.

$15 million salary increase – The administration presented a new alternative for the pay raise in which all district personnel would receive an approximate 3% raise (or a percent that remained within the $15 million cap for both salary increases and the related cost of employee benefits). The exact percent has yet to be determined as the administration had not fully established the actual cost based on the existing employee base. The administration stated that it would perform additional modeling and come back to the Commission with a more exact figure next week.

In its original recommendation (see more here), the administration established four employee categories for purposes of allocating the proposed pay raise. The group of employees that had received a salary increase in the last two years as a result of obtaining  advanced degree were very dissatisfied with the proposal as they argue that the salary increases received as a result of the advanced degrees is not only consistent with APS policy, but also enhances their ability to do a better job for the district. As a result, these employees believe that they are being penalized for advancing their skills as they are not sharing equally in the initial raise proposal.

The revised proposal would treat this disaffected group the same as all other employees and the result would be to lower the salary increases for employees that had not received any salary increase in the last four years and lower the raises for hourly and part-time employees.

It was also interesting to note that the administration stated that their HR tracking system was not up to date and that the salary step function had been turned off several years ago. As a result, a more complex proposal like the initial one would represent an administrative burden to implement. CHRO Price indicated that it could take up to a year to fix the existing system to accommodate the changes. A number of Board members appeared to be skeptical of this timeline and questioned whether there were short-term steps that could be implemented to fix the system. The administration maintained that it would fix the existing system, but that implementing a complex salary proposal was problematic.

Review of the FY15 Special Revenue Fund (SRF) Budget – In the last Board meeting a decision was made to defer approval of the SRF budget until a more thorough review was completed at the Budget Commission. The administration presented a slide show on the largest categories of the SRF which includes all Federal funding (Title I, Title II, Title III, Title IV and Race to the Top). It is important to note that there are hundreds of SRF accounts with many different requirements attached to each specific account. I will prepare a more in-depth review on the SRF in a subsequent post. In the end, the Commission did not take formal action to recommend adoption of the FY15 SRF Budget, but my sense is that it will be accepted by the full Board at its next formal meeting.

Addition of Gifted Student Program teachers – A member of the community made an appeal to the Commission to add back approximately 20 Gifted Student Program teachers – that had been included in the original budget submission – but were then cut back to the same level of 140 teachers that were included in the FY14 budget. The argument made was that the GA QBE funding report would support the 159.5 teachers in the original budget submission and that the administration had redirected the QBE funds to other purposes in subsequent budget submissions. [Added] The administration stated that the expansion of the Atlanta Virtual School would supplement the Gifted Program and, given all the other priorities in C&I, there were insufficient resources to fund the additional teachers.

[Note added – my sense is that the issue of teacher vs. technology will become an ongoing issue as the Virtual School expands and the supplement vs. supplant debate will become more intense in the future.]

A Commission member asked the administration to see if they could find the $1.8 million to add these teachers back, but the Commission was cautioned that selectively addressing this type of issue outside of the context of the entire district spending priorities could be a problem.

As an aside, while the argument made by the community member has merit on a stand-alone basis, it is important to note that if all the funding standards incorporated into the QBE funding formula were also applied to the district, it would result in a disaster. I will expand on this in a subsequent post.

Media paraprofessionals and its impact on accreditation – As part of the FY15 Budget CTO Tony Hunter included the elimination of 26 media paraprofessional positions in the district. Subsequent to the approval of the budget, the Board learned that the elimination of these positions could impact the accreditation of the elementary and middle schools when the next accreditation is completed in 2016. When questioned on this, Mr. Hunter indicated that he had raised this issue when he made a presentation to the Budget Commission in March.

None of the Board members in attendance at the meeting seemed to agree that this issue had been brought up in the past. I attended the meeting in question and do not recall this being raised as an issue either. Board members were visibly upset that a decision had been made by the administration that would potentially impact the district’s accreditation status without a full and thorough discussion on the issue. I expect that this issue will be raised again in the very near future.

Other thoughts – I thought it was interesting that there was no discussion on the status or progress on the FY15 budget revisions. If you will remember, the current budget for FY15 passed on a 6-3 vote, but none of the Board members were happy with it. However, the budget was passed so that the hiring process for FY15 could commence and not be delayed as it was last year. In addition, while not contained in the formal resolution passed at the Board level, there was an understanding that the FY15 Budget would be reviewed in detail with the new superintendent and revisions would likely be made.

Dr. Carstarphen addressed this specific issue during a media event on Tuesday. Her response, as reported by Atlanta Intown (see here) was,

The budget is one of her first priorities. The FY 2015 approved budget still allows for review and revision during the superintendent transition. Revisions will not be immediate…“Everything [needs to be] on the table before we start making adjustments,” Carstarphen explained.

The district is finalizing its vision, mission, and values. The board is working to solidify its definition of equity and approach for distributing resources – time, people, money. Carstarphen is both drilling down into the budget and comparing it to similar districts.

It is fully understandable that she needs time to dig in and to start making assessments. However, it was not clear to me that the Budget Commission members were fully engaged in the re-prioritization process.

We will see.

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