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We need to try to make budget cuts that will have the least long-term effects on the fewest students

By Mia Munn
Posted Monday, February 14, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - As the tough budget discussions begin, I ask that you all keep your eyes on the principle of openness. I believe that all of us are wiser than just a few of us. Sharing information and making it easy for the public to use the information available leads to better questions and better solutions. Being open and transparent will help the community buy into the difficult decisions that have to be made.

I sent the school board members some of my suggestions. But here are some others.

First, are we exceeding the district’s staffing guidelines in any area? For example, the staffing guidelines say we should have 1 psychologist per 2000 students, which would mean we need about 4, but the district currently has 5 full-time psychologists, at an average salary of $55,000. Could each of those go to half-time, saving a position and $51,000 in salary, potentially saving one of the instructional facilitator positions?

Second, is the new Pollard positions offset by decreases at the feeder schools? Opening Pollard will eliminate a numberof trailers. If we are eliminating 12 trailers, there should be no net increase in custodial needs. Make sure we are accurately predicting the incremental staffing needs for the new school.

Third, Central Office positions—to get the support of the teachers and the community, there need to be proportional cuts to central office staff. All five scenarios cut central office staff by at least 10%, the proportion of total monthly salaries. Making that public will increase the buy-in.

That said, we have a lot of central office positions, many more than Franklin County Schools, which is the system most similar to Chatham County. We should consider benchmarking our staffing against Franklin County and other similar school systems. Using information publicly available on each website, Chatham County has 1 Superintendent, 3 assistant superintendents, 3 officers, and 10 directors, in addition to 16 administrative assistants. For comparison, Franklin County also has 17 (superintendent, assistant superintendents, directors, officers), but only has 8 secretaries, administrative assistants/receptionist. Chatham County Schools has 6 human resource specialists plus one of those administrative assistants. Franklin County has 5 and no administrative assistant. We have 7 finance specialists plus an administrative assistant. Franklin has 6 and no administrative assistant. And yet, they have about 10% more students than we have.

Last, Data Integrity—I sent the Board some analysis of numbers of employees by job titles over years, using publicly available information on the DPI website. I confirmed that data with copies of the source data from both DPI and Chatham County Schools. Some of that data doesn’t make sense, like the swing of more than 100 teachers over a couple of years. Data integrity is vital. I wanted to use that data to make some additional comparisons between Chatham and Franklin County, but I now don’t have a lot of faith in the numbers because I don’t trust the numbers on the SS200 forms submitted by our district to the state.

We have to ensure that reports created by this school system are accurate. One year the district did not submit an SS200 report.

In summary, I ask that you try to make budget cuts that will have the least long-term effects on the fewest students.

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We need to try to make budget cuts that will have the least long-term effects on the fewest students