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Notes from the July 19 Chatham County school board meeting

By Mia Munn
Posted Friday, July 29, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Here are my notes from the school board meeting July 19, 2011. Del Turner, David Hamm, and Robert Logan were in the boardroom. Deb McManus, Flint O'Brien, Gary Leonard, and the board attorney were on the phone.

Calendar

The board approved a change to the 2011-12 calendar. There is no change to student days. The category "protected work days" has been eliminated by the legislature. There are 5 new Required Staff Development days on
days that had previously been other types of workdays: October 31, January 24, March 12, June 12, and June 13. On those days, the staff will get training in preparation for using the Common Core Standards in the 2012-13 school year. The training is mandatory: no one can take these as annual leave days. The K-2 teachers will be having some additional staff development Aug 15-17 in preparation for the K-2 Common Core Standards, which are the only ones being implemented in 2011-12.

SAGE school hours

The original proposal was to change the hours for SAGE to 9:30 (start) through 4:15 (end). That would mean SAGE students couldn't share buses with J-M students, so it would cost about $50K. Since there is not money in the budget for that, the hours for SAGE will be 7:50-3:25, and some students will still ride J-M buses.

RIF policy

The board approved the proposed changes to the RIF policy without a second reading. Most of the changes were necessary to align with state law. The policy was supposed to have been revised by July 15, and is effective July 1.

Mr. O'Brien and Ms. Turner wanted to add "teacher effectiveness" to the following sentence: "In assessing an employee's work performance for purposes of this policy, the school system may consider performance evaluations, improvement plans, past disciplinary actions, and other relevant factors as determined by the Superintendent or the board." The others didn't want the change, because the administration wanted clarification on how teacher effectiveness would be measured. The board may revisit this in August.

Budget

The district has received a $98 thousand water bill from the Town of Pittsboro. Apparently, since Northwood opened, the district has been charged at the lower Pittsboro rate instead of the higher outside-of-Pittsboro rate. The $98 thousand is the difference for the past three years (the legal limit on what can be billed).

Mr. Logan had talked to the town manager and Ms. McManus had talked to the mayor about the bill. The commissioners told the board Monday (July 18) that they should talk to the Pittsboro Town Board before asking the commissioners for this money. Mr. Logan and Ms. McManus will go to the Pittsboro Town Board as soon as possible, which will probably be late August. The bill is not due until the end of August.

The state discretionary cut to Chatham County Schools was $706 thousand larger than the district had planned when preparing the budget. On Monday (July 18), the commissioners declined to give the district those extra funds at this time. Mr. Logan said that Mr. Bock wanted a detailed reconciliation of the state budget, but that information is not available until at least September. He said the state allocation numbers are not final, and that the district didn't know the number of charter students or the formula for reimbursement to the NC Virtual Public School (for online classes). Federal dollars don't come in until October.

At this point, we have 157 more students. The commissioners did not increase local funding for increased enrollment. If our enrollment is lower than the state allocation is based on, then our state funding will be lower and we'll have to give back money. Some of the state funds are limited in how they can be used. Mr. Logan said the district does have enough budget to open and can wait until September to ask the commissioners for additional funds.

Mr. O'Brien asked for a one-page summary of the budget situation for Thursday's (July 21) meeting, showing what is known now (increases and decreases), what is unknown, and what the risks for changes are. Ms. Little said she would try. Mr. Hamm said he told the commissioners they are micro-managing the district. Ms. Turner said the commissioners' job is to provide funds that the school system needs.

The board decided that a press release about the budget should go out, and Ms. McManus would work with Beth McCullough to review it before it went out. Below is the text of the press announcement sent after the meeting:

District Faces Over $700,000 in Additional
Discretionary Funding Cuts

During its July 18 meeting, members of the Chatham County Board of Education and Superintendent Robert Logan approached the Chatham County Board of Commissioners about funding a $706,181 school district request to make up additional state education budget cuts.The commissioners did not fund the request,/but /left the door open for the Board of Education to specify its needs in meeting the additional discretionary funding cut.The board of education remains hopeful county commissioners will use available county resources to help offset the educational budget deficit.

The board of education has called a special meeting for Thursday, July 21, at 6:00 p.m. in the central office board room to review the most up-to-date information the district has on available funding and how it can proceed in making budget decisions necessitated by state cuts above amounts projected in June when the district completed its annual budget preparation.

"Charter schools in Chatham County will be negatively affected by this state discretionary cut as well since their funding sources are the same as the traditional public schools," noted Logan.

The district has made dramatic budget cuts over the past three years.There is already a $5,027,902reduction in the 2011-2012 budget, which brings total budget cuts to $9 million over the past three years, including cutting over sixty positions.

"By having to use almost $2.6 million of our fund balance this year, we have little left in reserves to meet unanticipated costs that often arise during a school year.The Board of Education was willing to take this chance in order to save jobs and sustain services to children," Superintendent Robert Logan stated.

When Superintendent Logan and Board of Education Chair Deb McManus presented the school district's annual budget request to the commissioners in June, the pair made them aware of the fact it was likely the state legislature would increase the discretionary education cut even more than the school district had been told by the Department of Public Instruction to anticipate.The board of commissioners told the education officials to come back to them if the state discretionary cut was greater than already budgeted.

"We have acted in good faith by coming back to the commissioners during this unprecedented education budget crisis.The public has made it clear that its two top priorities are education and jobs.We want to work together with the commissioners to maintain those priorities," commented McManus.

Mia Munn is a former educator who ran for the Chatham County school board in 2008.

 
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