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

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 Three of the charter petitions were withdrawn and the Atlanta Classical Academy was subsequently approved.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.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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